My youngest son turned 12 last
summer. On my mind as with any parent, is the concern that your
child is reaching the "troublesome" years. We all
remember these years too vividly as a time of uncertainty, confusion,
low self-esteem, etc. I remember having these feelings of just
"ending it all". This is why I have dedicated this
month's article to this important issue. I hope that there are
available to you as a parent to help your child before it is too late.
Suicides among young people nationwide have increased
dramatically in recent years. Each year in the U.S., thousands of
teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death
for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for
5-to-14-year-olds. 5 year old children, killing themselves!
To most of us, this sound absurd, but the sad truth is, that it can
and does happen.
Statistics show that more than 13 of every 100,000 teenager took their
life in 1990, and that number's rising every year. Many think that these
are isolated incidents, but they aren't. It is estimated that 500,000
teenagers try to kill themselves every year, and about 5000
succeed. 5000, that is right up
there with cancer and homicide.
Teenagers experience strong feelings of
stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, peer-pressure,
financial uncertainty, and other fears while growing up.
For some teenagers, divorce, the
formation of a new family with step-parents and step-siblings, or moving
to a new community can be very unsettling and can intensify self-doubts.
In some cases, suicide appears to be a "solution."
Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable
mental disorders. The child or adolescent needs to have his or
her illness recognized and diagnosed, and appropriate treatment plans
developed. When parents are in doubt whether their child has a serious
problem, a psychiatric examination can be very helpful.
Many of the symptoms of suicidal
feelings are similar to those of depression. Parents
should be aware of the following signs of adolescents who may try to
- change in eating and sleeping habits
- withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
- violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
- drug and alcohol use
- unusual neglect of personal appearance
- marked personality change
- persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the
quality of schoolwork
- frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to
emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
- loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- not tolerating praise or rewards
Please click for in-depth information on Warning
A teenager who is planning to commit suicide
- complain of being a bad person or feeling "rotten
- give verbal hints with statements such as: "I won't be a
problem for you much longer," "Nothing matters,"
"It's no use," and "I won't see you again"
- put his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite
possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important belongings,
- become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
- have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts)
If a child or adolescent says, "I want to kill myself," or
"I'm going to commit suicide," always take the statement
seriously and seek evaluation from a child and adolescent psychiatrist
or other physician. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death.
However, asking the child or adolescent whether he or she is depressed
or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than "putting
thoughts in the child's head," such a question will provide
assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance
to talk about problems.
If one or more of these signs occurs, parents need to talk to their
child about their concerns and seek professional help when the concerns
persist. With support from family and professional treatment, children
and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a more healthy
path of development. For immediate help, call 1-800-SUICIDE
- Parent's Resource Center
Copyright © 1997-2003 [PRC]. All rights reserved.
Revised: November 14, 2006