September 5-10 is Suicide Awareness week
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the United States among youth aged 10-19 and continues to rise among teens, and is the second leading cause of death among college students. Oklahoma is one of 14 states showing a rise in suicide among adolescents in the past two years since the pandemic.
For parents, suicide and self-harm can be scary subjects to bring up with their children and teens, but it is an extremely important conversation. Openly talking about self-harm and suicide will not cause youth to be more likely to commit suicide but rather help them feel safe and supported. Approximately 1 out of every five high school teens have thought about suicide in the past year. Most teens who have thought about suicide have exhibited signs of depression.
Asking kids if they are feeling sad or hopeless, are having trouble with friends or with school, if they know of someone that has deliberately self-harmed, or if they have experienced thoughts of “not wanting to be here anymore” can be excellent ways to start the conversation.
Here are some tips when talking with your child or teen about suicide: stay calm, listen, be supportive and positive, and be honest with them. Ask open-ended questions and remain non-judgmental. If your child or teen is not ready to talk, try not to push but let them know you are there to listen and support them when they are ready. Take self-harm and talk about dying seriously and try not to dismiss it as typical teenage mood swings or attention-seeking behavior as your child could be reaching out for help. Even a simple statement such as “I just don’t care anymore” could be a red flag that something deeper may be going on. Finding a mental health professional for your child and/or teen can help distinguish between normal mood changes and chronic conditions that can put them at risk for suicide.
Kids and teens need to know the warning signs of depression and suicide and how to get help. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or thinking about suicide, let someone know right away. Talk with parents, trusted friends, teachers, school counselors, therapists, or medical professionals.
Kids and teens can also call or text the Suicide Crisis Lifeline at 988 with 24/7 access to speak to a trained counselor. The lifeline is free and confidential.
Risk factors for suicide:
Warning signs to watch for:
Feeling down, sad, or hopeless
Change in behavior, sleeping, and/or eating habits
Social withdrawal/ loss of interest in activities
Talk about hopelessness or “wishing they were dead”
Talk about dying, researching suicide, or dying online
Jennifer Hiebler, APRN, PMHNP-BC Duncan Behavioral Health