Home HEALTH Teen suicide: how to read the early warning signs

Teen suicide: how to read the early warning signs

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Family, friends, and community members are devastated when a young person dies as a result of hopelessness or frustration. Parents, siblings, classmates, coaches, and neighbours may question whether there was anything they could have done to prevent that young person from committing suicide. Understanding what causes a kid to commit suicide may aid in the prevention of future tragedies. It’s always a good idea to be aware and take action to help a troubled youngster, even if it can’t always be avoided. Suicide-related behaviours (such as suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and suicide attempts) are on the rise among adolescents and are a major public health concern.

About Teen Suicide:

Suicide or attempted suicide by a teen might have a variety of causes. While suicide is uncommon in children, the number of suicides and suicide attempts skyrockets during puberty. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) USA, suicide is the third greatest cause of mortality among 15- to 24-year-olds. Suicide attempts and completions include hanging oneself, wrist cutting, and overdosing on over-the-counter, prescription, and non-prescription medications.

Which Teens Are at Risk for Suicide?

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It’s difficult to recall how it felt to be a teen, stuck somewhere between childhood and adulthood. Sure, it’s a time of great opportunity, but it can also be a time of anxiety and stress. There’s a lot of pressure to fit in socially, intellectually, and responsibly. Adolescence is also a time of sexual identity and relationships, as well as a desire for independence, which frequently collide with the rules and expectations set by others.

Suicidal thoughts are more likely among young people with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar illness, or sleeplessness. Teens who are experiencing big life changes (parents’ divorce, relocating, a parent leaving home due to military service or parental separation, financial upheavals) and those who are bullied are more likely to consider suicide.

Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include:

  • Depression, bipolar illness, and alcohol and drug abuse are all examples of psychological disorders (in fact, about 95 percent of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of death)
  • feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
  • feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression
  • a previous suicide attempt
  • a family history of depression or suicide
  • emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
  • dealing with bisexuality or homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment
major family disagreement, often leads to teen suicide.

Warning Signs:

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A stressful life event, like issues at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family disagreement, often leads to teen suicide.

Teens who are contemplating suicide may:

  • broach the subject or death in general
  • hint that they might not be around much longer
  • discuss feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • withdraw from friends or family
  • write songs, poems, or letters about death, separation, and loss
  • begin giving away prized possessions to siblings or friends
  • lose interest in favourite things or activities
  • have difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
  • have changed eating or sleeping habits
  • participate in risky behaviours
  • lose interest in school or sports

What Can Parents Do?

Many teens who commit or attempt suicide have given loved ones advance notice of their intentions. As a result, it’s critical for parents to recognise the warning signals so that kids who may be suicidal can get the support they require. Some adults believe that children who threaten to harm or kill themselves are “simply trying to get attention.” It’s vital to remember that ignoring kids who are seeking attention may raise the likelihood of them killing themselves (or worse).

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Getting attention in the form of ER trips, doctor’s appointments, and residential treatment isn’t something most teenagers won’t unless they’re truly miserable and contemplating suicide or wishing they were dead. It is critical to observe caution. It’s critical to regard warning indicators as serious rather than as “attention-seeking” that should be dismissed.

Tips for preventing suicide attempts: 

The following recommendations may be useful if your child feels comfortable talking to you about their thoughts of self-harm.

  • Take it Seriously

50-75 per cent of persons who attempt suicide notify someone about their plans. If you or someone you know exhibits any of the following warning signals, now is the time to take action.

  • Encourage Professional Help

Encourage the person to contact a doctor or a mental health expert right away.

Suicidal people frequently believe they can’t be helped. Assist them in finding a professional and setting up an appointment if you can. If they allow it, accompany them to the appointment. 

  • Ask Questions

Begin by expressing your worry for the suicidal person. Tell them exactly what they’ve said or done that has made you think about suicide. Don’t be scared to inquire if the person is thinking about and if they have a specific plan or technique in mind. If they weren’t thinking about suicide before, these questions won’t make them do it.

Inquire as to whether they are seeing a clinician or taking medication so that the treating professional can be called.

Do not try to talk someone out of committing suicide. Instead, show them that you care, that they are not alone, and that aid is available. Avoid pleading with them or preaching to them.

  • Take Action

It is a crisis that requires immediate attention if the person is threatening, talking about, or making definite arrangements for suicide. Do not abandon the individual. Remove any firearms, drugs, or sharp objects from the area that could be used to commit the act. Take the person to a psychiatric hospital’s walk-in clinic or the emergency room.

One of the common misconceptions concerning suicidal talk and attempts in young people is that they are merely a plea for attention or a “cry for help.” Kids who talk or write about suicide are disregarded as being extremely dramatic—obviously, they don’t mean it! A threat of suicide, especially from a crying child, should never be discounted. It’s easy to lose sight of her and cease taking her seriously. It is critical to take threats and other warning indicators seriously and thoughtfully. They don’t always indicate that a child will attempt suicide. But it’s a risk you can’t afford to take.

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Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Currently head of Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh is a mental wellness expert with expertise in relationship, lifestyle & stress management. The founder and director of The Mind and Wellness Studio Dr. Rachna Khanna has worked with leading hospitals like Fortis Escorts, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital. Her specialties include stress management, lifestyle management for heart diseases, supportive care for chronically ill patients, work-life balance, parent-child bonding, cancer support care, ante/postnatal care, relationship counselling, pre-marital & marital counselling, adolescent counselling, psychiatric & psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, insomnia.

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