As a parent, what do I need to watch for?

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24 in the U.S.
  • For each suicide death, family and close friends are at higher risk for suicide themselves.
  • If you are concerned, don't wait to talk to your child.
  • Knowing the risk factors and warning signs helps you help your child with concerns about himself or another student.
  • Asking directly about suicide tells your child it's ok to talk about it with you.
  • Take all suicidal thoughts, threats and behaviors seriously.
  • Most suicidal people want to end severe emotional pain.
  • Emotional pain makes it hard to think clearly, consider options or remember reasons for living.

Risk Factors

Prior suicide attempt

  • This is the strongest predictor of future attempts.

Mental illness

  • 1 in 5 teens will have depression at some point.
  • Many teens with depression are undiagnosed.
  • Childhood depression often continues into adulthood, especially if left untreated.
  • Bullying: In-person or cyberbullying.

 Interpersonal conflict

  • Trauma: Examples include injury, assault, legal trouble, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
  • Relationship breakups: Impulsivity combined with a personal inability to think through consequences before acting can increase the risk for suicide following a breakup.
  • Sexting: Tell your children to never take images they don't want classmates, family or future employers to see. Forwarding a sexual picture of a minor is a crime.
  • Recent loss: Examples include moving, changing schools, divorce, or death of a loved one.
  • Questioning sexual orientation.

Warning signs
Call 911 if:

  • A suicide attempt has been made.
  • A weapon is present.
  • The person is out of control.
  • The person makes a serious threat to kill himself or herself such as:
      
    "I wish I were dead."
      
    "If ...... doesn't happen, I'll kill myself."
      
    "What's the point of living?"
  • Looks for a way to carry out a suicide plan.
  • Talks about death or suicide in text messages, on social media sites or in poems/music.
  • Gives away possessions.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Rage, anger or seeking revenge.
  • Reckless or risky behavior.
  • Expressions of feeling trapped, like there's no way out.
  • Alcohol or drug use.
  • Withdrawal from family or friends.
  • Anxiety, agitation or sleep irregularity.
  • Dramatic mood changes.
  • Discussions of no reason for living or no sense of purpose.

Prevention
What you can do right now:

  • Know suicide risk factors and warning signs.
  • Share this website with your child.
  • Have a conversation about what your child should do if he is concerned about himself or a friend.
  • Promote skills in problem-solving and conflict resolution.
  • Maintain a supportive and involved relationship with your child.
  • Encourage participation in sports, activities at school/place of worship or volunteering.
  • Help your teen develop strong communication skills.
  • Get medical care for depression and substance use.
  • Don't leave a depressed or suicidal teen home alone.
  • Most suicides occur in the early afternoon/evening in the teen's home.

Remove these items or secure in your home:

Prescription and over-the-counter medications

  • Keep medications, including vitamins with iron, where your kids or their friends cannot access them.

Don't keep lethal doses of medication on hand. A pharmacist can advise you on safe quantities. 

Alcohol and Drugs

  • Talk to your kids about substance use as a major risk factor for suicide.
  • If your teen has a pattern of substance use, seek mental health care.
  • Substance use could be an attempt to self-medicate a mental illness.
  • Substance use makes youth more likely to choose lethal means, such as guns. Remove firearms from your home. 

Poisons

  • Lock up potentially harmful common household products, including household cleaners, products containing alcohol (such as mouthwash, hand sanitizer, etc.), and cosmetics (such as nail polish remover, perfume, etc.). 

Guns

  • Remove firearms from your home. More than half of all suicide deaths result from a gunshot wound.  

Talking to your kids

How to start a conversation after a relationship breakup:
  • What did you notice about yourself in the relationship?
  • What is positive? What would you like to change?
  • Were there patterns or issues that brought you into this relationship or caused it to end?
  • What are your priorities and preferences in life?
  • Who are you on your own and how do you want to live your life? 

How to start a conversation about suicide:
  • "I have been feeling concerned about you lately."
  • "Lately, I've noticed some differences in you. How are you doing?"
  • "What happened? It might help to talk about it." 

Questions you can ask:
  • "When did you begin feeling like this?"
  • "Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?"
  • "How can I support you right now?"
  • "Could you tell me more about that?"

What to say that can help:
  • "You are not alone... I'm here for you."
  • "I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I love you and want to help."
  • "I think you feel there is no way out. Let's talk about some options."

Credits & Reference:
Oakland County Health Division
www.oakgov.com/health/information/Pages/Youth-Suicide-Toolkit.aspx

Printable PDF File


YouTube

In this video created by Mayo Clinic, teens describe common signs that a teen is considering suicide and provide encouragement for communicating directly and immediately for support and safety. It also Includes suggestions for what to say to a teen who may be at risk for suicide and ways to keep them safe. Things can get better.