Teen Talk: Teen Suicide Warning Signs & Prevention

Teen Suicide
Posted at 8:00 AM, Sep 28, 2015
and last updated 2016-07-04 11:42:22-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- In the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 through 24, behind only homicide and accidents.

It's an important topic for parents to think about and discuss before it's too late.

Family therapist Jane Marks says the risk for suicide frequently occurs in combination with external circumstances that seem to overwhelm at risk teens who aren’t able to cope with the demands of their lives.  As parents of a young person or friends who are experiencing these kinds of challenges, an awareness of possible signs of suicide is important for most families.  

Here's more warning signs:

1. Talk of death, any mention of dying, disappearing, or other types of self-harm, getting their affairs in order, saying good bye. Suicidal notes or plans.

2. Recent loss through death, divorce, separation, broken relationships, loss of interest.

3.  Change of personality; sadness, extreme withdrawal, irritability, anger, anxiety, fatigue.  A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that a person has made the decision to commit suicide.  These are things you need to be alerted to.

4.  Change in behavior; compromised concentration, change in work, unable to manage routine tasks.

5.  Change in sleep patterns, insomnia, and compromised sleep.

6.  Change in eating habits; loss of appetite and weight, or sometimes extreme overeating.

7.  Fear of losing control, acting erratically, low self-esteem, feeling worthless, feeling of hopelessness, a feeling that things will never get better.

8.  Self-loathing, self-hatred.  Feeling shame, guilt shame, feeling like a burden.

9.  Other risk factors include a pre-disposition to mental illness, environmental risk, and situational crisis.

10.  Suicidal threats in the form of direct and indirect statements.

11.  Prior suicidal behavior or friends who have committed suicide.

12.  Making final arrangements and a preoccupation with death.    

Suppose you or your teenagers comes into contact with someone who is exhibiting a cadre of these behaviors - what do you do?

1.  Remain calm.

2.  Ask the teen if he or she is thinking about suicide.  Do you have a plan?  Do you have what you need to carry out your plan?  Time set? Suicide intention?

3.  Focus on your concerns on their well being.

4.  Avoid being accusatory.

5.  Listen.

6.  Do not judge.

7.  Offer hope. Reassure them that there is help and that the suicidal feelings are temporary.  Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.

8.  Remove means of self-harm if you can.

9.  Most importantly get help; teachers, school psychologists, counselors, mental health resources.  GET HELP.

10.  Resiliency factors can lessen the potential of risk factors that can lead to suicide and you, as a family, can be part of resiliency resources for any teen at risk.

11.  Remember, always take threats seriously.

Marks also say you can become part of a resource team helping a young person through this or being part of their support system.  It is indeed an issue where we don’t want to just be bystanders but more importantly possible solutions to what could be a critical lifesaving event.