More and more teens turn to suicide when they can’t cope with their problems. They want the pain to end at any cost. Majority of the parents I work with are oblivious to the signs of depression and suicide. They simply think that their teen is being difficult or rebellious and they handle it by either getting angry at them or ignoring their plea for help. It’s really sad how many suicides could be prevented by having better communication and empathy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year, an average of 8% of American teens will attempt suicide. This makes suicide the second leading cause of death for kids aged 10 to 24. In fact, it is believed that more teenagers die from suicide than from cancer, pneumonia, birth defects, AIDS, influenza and heart disease combined.
So many teens suffer silently without any understanding from their parents. They desperately need help, but due to the stigma surrounding depression and suicide they keep their emotional pain to themselves.
What can parents of teens do to protect their teens from committing suicide?
If you are not communicating with your teens on a daily basis you will not know what they are going through. Each day connect with your teen by asking a few critical questions to make them feel cared for and loved:
- What was good about today?
- Did anything upset you?
- Who makes you smile at school?
- Does anyone annoy you?
- Do you ever feel frustrated by your classmates?
- Are you ever teased or bullied?
- What makes you sad?
- Do you ever have suicidal thoughts? (ask this after you have built some trust and friendship)
There is a dangerous misconception that talking about feelings or suicide will lead teens to take action. In reality, if teens have a safe environment to express themselves they will not resort to self-harm or suicide.
If they express that they have thought of suicide ask if they have a plan – meaning how they would do it. If there is a plan then this is a red flag and you should consult a professional immediately. If they don’t have a plan but they wish they were dead then that indicates that they are most likely suffering from depression.
Listen With Empathy
Try to put all judgment aside. Don’t tell them they are wrong for feeling this way. Don’t shame them and say they need to be grateful and if they had better iman then they would not be depressed. Validate their feelings and show them love and acceptance. The more compassionate you are the more your teens will open up.
Get More Clarity
It is critical to remain calm if your teen confides they are having thoughts of suicide. Ask questions to find out why they may be feeling so desperate. They may share with you for the following reasons:
- It’s an act of desperation & hopelessness
- It’s a plea for help
- They may have made a mistake that they feel has no solution
- They have overwhelming amount of pain
- Have actually planned how and when they will take their life.
Let them know that regardless of what has happened you are there for them and you can find a solution. Tell them that they are not alone and they don’t have to carry the burden all by themselves. Make sure you show strength, understanding and love during the critical time. This is not a time to punish, discipline or get angry. Your teen needs your love, attention and understanding.
Get Professional Help
You should take any talk of suicide seriously and seek the help of a professional. Don’t force them to seek treatment, but encourage them to open up with someone who can guide them. It’s important for you to also speak to a professional during this difficult time.
Make sure you reach out for help if you or a loved one is contemplating suicide. You can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 or click here for their website. You can also text Salam to 741741 or schedule a session with Haleh and her trusted team as well. Click here for more information.