On the morning of May 4, 2009, I received the devastating phone call informing me that my grandfather (who was like a father figure to me) had completed suicide.
Unless you have experienced suicide first hand (and I pray you have not and never have to) you know that there are no words that can properly explain how that feels or what emotions you experience.
Since that time that I have become involved in suicide awareness in an effort to prevent any other person experiencing the loss of a loved one to suicide and to help those who struggle with suicidal thoughts or ideations to know that they are not alone and they do matter.
“To the world, you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
– Dr. Seuss
Did you know that teen suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among teenagers?
One in five teenagers seriously contemplates suicide every year.
Approximately 1,700 teenagers die by suicide each year.
According to the National Association for Mental Illness, in 2006, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among college students, the third-leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24 years, and the fourth- leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 14 years. (According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the 6th leading cause of death among those aged 5 to 14 years.)
If you are not familiar with suicide, you may be wondering what causes such a young child – even as young as 10 – to take their own life.
- Mental Illness.
- Family. (e.g. divorce, moving, etc.)
- Genetics. (Yes, studies have indicated that not only is mental illness genetic, but completing suicide may have a genetic link. In the case of my grandfather, I later learned that his brother completed suicide many years before I was born.
What to Watch For
- Talking about or hinting at killing them self or ‘removing themselves from the problem’ or ‘not having to worry about them any longer’, etc.
- Talking or writing about death.
- Substance abuse.
- Feeling hopeless.
- Withdrawing from friends and activities.
- Mood swings.
- A change in their routine (e.g. eating patterns, sleeping patterns, etc.)
- Acting reckless or aggressive, rebellious, running away.
- Appearing as thought they are getting their ‘affairs in order’ (e.g. giving away prized possessions)
- Personality changes.
- Unexplained injuries such as cuts, burns, or other injuries that appear self inflicted.
- Low self esteem.
- Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance.
- Complain about not being good enough, feeling like a bad person.
- Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression.
- Having signs of psychosis (e.g. audio or visual hallucinations, paranoia, etc.)
Note: If your child or teen is in immediate danger of suicide, take them to the emergency room or contact 911 (please explain to the operator that your child/teen is suicidal).
If they are not in immediate danger, but you suspect they may be considering suicide, they can contact a suicide hotline (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK); talk to them; and/or seek medical assistance.
What Can We do to Prevent Teen Suicide
- First and foremost, please share this post to spread awareness. You can use any of the social share buttons at the top or the bottom of this post to share.
- Address depression or anxiety.
- Approach your teen. Talk to your teen. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
- Pay attention. Know your child – what they say, how they appear, their behavior, etc.
- Don’t let them spend too much time alone.
- Encourage physical activity (walking, sports, etc.)
- Safely store firearms, alcohol, and medications.
- Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I am not a medical doctor. I am an advocate for suicide prevention, awareness, and education. If you or someone you know are in danger of hurting yourself or others, please seek immediate help.