I didn’t want to write this, but a colleague told me that I must. It’s about teen suicide. It’s about dreams that will never be realized. A flower picked before the bloom. It’s about the unending heartache of family and friends. And the despair that caused a teenager to see no other way out.
Three weeks ago, the suicides of two celebrities focused our national attention on this awful subject. The following week, two teens from right here in Blount County took their own lives. Last week, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife committed suicide. Our community is shocked and heartbroken. Maybe it’s too soon to talk about prevention. Perhaps the pain is still too raw. But, maybe, just maybe, somebody will read this and take action to help a young person who may be contemplating suicide. Here are some facts from the CDC worth considering:
Teen suicide is not uncommon. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens. Only accidents (car wrecks, falls, etc.) kill more American teenagers than suicide.
More teens die from suicide than from the seven most deadly sicknesses (cancer, heart disease, flu, etc.) all put together.
Boys are three times more likely than girls, but girl suicides are on the rise.
The likelihood of suicide is greater for teens who drink alcohol, use drugs, or who have family or friends who have killed themselves.
The number of teen suicides has increased steadily since the early 2000s. Some say this correlates with the increasing use of smart phones and social media.
Search the Internet for “teen suicide prevention” and you will find lots of information about warning signs. Some key signs are: (1) when a teen is obsessed with a desire to die; (2) when a teen has sudden changes in mood, eating habits, grades, friends, etc.; (3) when a teen begins to give away possessions; (4) when a teen loses a close friend or loved one.
So, what can a parent or friend do to help prevent a teenager from committing suicide? Again, I encourage you to search the web, where you will easily find lots of advice. Another good source of information is the Crisis Center. Call them at 323-7777 if you want to talk to someone who can help.
Here are some of the most common prevention tips:
Spend time with your child. Seems trite, but it’s critical. Put away the phone and the video games. Get outside. Do something together. Build something. Plant something. Take a hike. Go for ice cream. Anything to create intentional moments for personal interaction and conversation.
Listen. Be attentive and in tune to the issues in your child’s life. Take seriously their concerns about bullying or teenage heartbreak. Take time to hear what they have to say. Invite dialogue with phrases like, “Tell me more about that,” or “How does that make you feel?” Then be quiet… and listen.
Talk about suicide. Some parents mistakenly think that talking about suicide will increase the risk that the child will do it. Not so. It’s not easy, but ask your child, “Have you ever thought about suicide?” Talking about it can be a big help.
Watch for changes in your child’s behavior (see above) that could indicate depression or despair.
Limit their exposure to the Internet and social media. Consider taking their phones and computers at a certain time each night. Monitor their activity in an age-appropriate way. Nowadays, suicide is often prompted by a child’s online interactions.
Get help. Raising children is best done as a team. Stay in close communication with the other folks in your child’s life: teachers, school counselors, coaches, church leaders, their friends’ parents, etc. Ask their opinion.
See a professional. Some children (and their parents) will benefit from the help of a professional counselor. Some children have clinical issues and need medication. Whatever the case, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Eastside
Mental Health Center is located in Oneonta and can be reached by calling 625-3882 or on the Internet at www.eastsidemhc.org.
If your child threatens suicide – take it seriously. Take them immediately to Children’s Hospital.
It pains me to write about such a heart-rending subject. If the Blount County Children’s Center can help, give us a call at 274-7226. Maybe, working together as a community, we can help save a child’s life.