Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States for adults, and the third leading cause for people 15- to 24-years of age. Before taking their own life, a teenager may think of wanting to die – this is called suicidal ideation. Suicidal warning signs shouldn’t be ignored.
Just The Facts
Suicides among young people remain to be a major problem. It’s the second leading reason for death among children, adolescents, and young adults aged 15-to-24-year-olds. According to a study as recent as 2015, there were 100,000 teen suicide deaths in the United States during the previous 40 years. Boys are more likely to commit suicide than girls, at a rate of three to four times the frequency of girls. Unfortunately, the numbers continue to rise.
Suicidal Ideation In Teenagers
Suicidal ideation refers to the notion of talking and thinking about suicide, but not having a plan to actually carry out the act. This can either be passive, where a teenager mostly keeps such thoughts private, or active, where the person contemplating suicide talks about it openly if even infrequently.
Risk Factors For Teens
Just like adults, teens who commit suicide often have mental health issues that they struggle to control but ultimately fail. A teen might feel suicidal because of specific life circumstances including:
- Having a mental illness, including depression
- Loss of a loved one or conflict with friends or family
- History of or exposure to violence
- Problems with drugs or alcohol
- Physical or medical problems
- The teen was bullied
- Questions about sexual orientation
- Witness to the suicide of a loved one
- Being adopted
- There is a family history of suicidal behavior or mood disorders
How A Parent Can Prevent Suicide
Every parent knows the joys and difficulties of raising a teenager. When everything “clicks,” a relationship between parent and child is a thing of beauty. But when it doesn’t, and dark clouds roll in, a relationship can fracture, leading to moments of distress that can worsen over time. If you believe your teenager is at risk of suicide, there are a number of things you can do to prevent that tragedy from happening.
- Deal with anxiety and depression as they occur. Bad days happen to all of us, but when low moods, lack of energy, and loss of interest drag on for weeks or months, something’s wrong. But don’t wait for your teen to come to you; be proactive and ask, “What can I do to help?”
- Your teenager may not be talking, but you can still listen. Not every child thinking of suicide shows their cards (suicidal ideation, passive or active), but poor communication is a hallmark of pending trouble. Sometimes, silence is a call for help, so don’t be afraid to call your child out to participate in family game night or watch a movie together.
- Teenagers like their privacy, but if you’re concerned as a parent about suicide, discourage your child from constant isolation. Holing up in their bedroom to do homework is one thing, but staying there unless absolutely necessary – using the bathroom, getting something to eat – is a problem. Keep an eye out for warning signs.
- Yes, teenagers can be melodramatic, but threats or random discussion of suicide are something completely different. Statements like “I just want to die” or “I don’t want to be here anymore” shouldn’t be ignored. Sadness, depression, and low moods need to be confronted with compassion. Console your child with a hug, kind words, and a resolve to help them navigate troubled days.
A mental health professional may be able to help you and your teen, but depression, anxiety, a casual mention of suicide, or more serious threats shouldn’t be ignored. If you think your child is at risk of suicide, or has threatened to commit suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Line immediately.
Will Ketamine Work?
The medicine ketamine has been used for years to help adult patients suffering from mental illness, chronic pain, and other conditions which have proven treatment-resistant to many forms of therapy. If you think your teenager is at risk of suicide, traditional in-person counseling may be offered, but medicine including ketamine therapy should also be discussed. Data on using ketamine to treat depression in teenagers shows promising results, but more study is required to confirm its efficacy.
Anxiety, depression, sadness, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and isolation are warning signs to watch for in teenagers. If your child is troubled, low moods and other red flags shouldn’t be ignored. Be proactive and ask your teen how you can help or contact your doctor about the benefits of ketamine therapy.