Teen Talk: Teens and Suicide Prevention

Teen Suicide
Posted at 9:06 AM, Sep 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-01 05:26:37-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -  This week's "Teen Talk" is focused on advice for parents when it comes to teens and suicide prevention.

WTXL contributor and family therapist Jane Marks:

Teen suicide is a very huge growing health concern. It is the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. What we do know about teens is that too often they are extraordinarily private or often very dramatic so on occasion for teens it is very difficult to determine when a friend is truly at risk. Here is what the research shows. Indeed there are possible warning signs among teenagers;

1. Recent losses through deaths, divorce, and more particularly among teenagers in broken relationships. Huge changes in personalities; being sad, withdrawn, irritable. No sense of purpose.

2. Major changes in behavior; difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep patterns, major changes in eating habits, fear of losing control, extraordinary anger, hopelessness, no hope for their future, and recklessness. Dependence on alcohol or drugs.

3. Suicidal ideation; thinking, writing, drawing, or talking about suicide. Kids who continually talk about dying or using terms like disappearing or jumping.

4. Once teens have learned warning signs, and it's important to note that there are so many school based programs that address these issues. If a friend hints or jokes about suicide it is important to take all communication or suicide talk seriously. It is safe to ask directly," are you seriously thinking about killing yourself?" Too often both adults and teens as well feel very anxious about making that statement. We don't want to hurt feelings or infringe upon privacy but it is important to gently or courageously ask this questions. Parents and teens, don't keep secrets. Rather than promising your friend to keep the thoughts of suicide a secret, tell that teenager that it is important that they involve other people in these issues. True friendship means that you will remain a friend no matter what. Keeping secrets about suicide can have devastating consequences that can affect a person's life long term.

5. As a teenager, develop listening skills and really listen. Show your interest and support for your friend. Try not to judge. Don't attempt, don't interrupt, and don't give advice. Express concern and tell your friend that you will get help together.

6. If a friend is having a really tough day, try and make sure that this friend is not alone. Try and get this friend to a mental health professional, a hospital emergency room, or a primary care physician.

7. Move out of harms way. If there are fire arms, drugs, or other means of suicide make sure you inform the parents and do everything you can to get them out of harms way. The one important issue here is that teenagers very often on occasion have not been thinking about it but are so impulsive that they might try something because the access is there.

8. Teens, it is very important that you take care of yourself. If you have a friend that has extreme depression and is going through something like this, it is very important that you make sure you get support for yourself. Talk to a friend, family member, or professional about your situation and make sure you are taking care of yourself in the healthiest of fashions.

9. Important resources are; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK, 24 hours, toll free. An online chat option is available at The Trevor Project Society for the prevention of teen suicide, There are suicide prevention resources for teens that are available.

Finally, I think it's important that we talk about factors that can help in the management of teens with deep, deep depression. We'll look at that next time on our Teen Talk segment. As usual we hope these thoughts are helpful in developing the building blocks for teaching awareness to our teens in overall personal growth and development.

Watch Teen Talk every other Monday at 6:30am on WTXL's Sunrise.