Teen Suicide – Factors and Prevention by Alina Lopez
A common misconception about suicidal talk and suicidal attempts is that it’s a bid for attention or a “cry for help.” Kids who speak of killing themselves are dismissed as being overly dramatic, but a threat of suicide should never be over looked. A leading cause of suicide is an underlying mental health illness. Mental health issues reduce a child’s ability to cope with outside triggers or traumas, making them more susceptible to suicidal thoughts and attempts. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported an increase in suicide for those ages 10-24 since 2007 and a majority of victims are females. In our society, talks of mental health or suicide are still somewhat taboo yet these topics are something we must not ignore or throw in the back burner, especially when it deals with our youth.
The teenage years have always been difficult and awkward. You’re not yet an adult, but not a child. It’s even harder to be a teenager these days with increased internet access, academic pressure, economic and social stressors, and most recently, a pandemic. During the COVID pandemic, teens had to navigate those challenges amid increases in isolation, grief, economic insecurities, and school interruptions. A “stressor storm” has been created as teens struggle with the reality of the pandemic.
Another huge stressor for youngsters has been bullying. Virtual bullying has taken over as more popular versus the old school in person type. In our heyday, bullying occurred in such places as schools, sporting events, or places where youth gathered, but the internet and social media has allowed this kind of behavior to extend to those platforms, thus making it more difficult to cope with.
Many of the warning signs of suicide are similar to those of depression and it’s important either way for parents to be on the lookout for such behaviors like losing interest in usual activities or schoolwork, withdrawing from family and friends, neglecting one’s appearance, or substance abuse. Immediate attention needs to be given if a teen has taken up a peaked interest in death or wanting to die, making plans or efforts toward committing suicide, or writing a suicide note.
As a parent or guardian, it is imperative to be open in communication with your child: always remind them that you love and support them, and are always there to talk and listen. Build a healthy relationship with your child and know as much as you can about them. It’s not helicopter parenting. It’s being engaged and involved in your child’s life and this needs to start, not in the teen years, but in early childhood. Remember, you are their parent before their friend, and it is our responsibility as parents and caregivers to protect our children.
Parents (or caregivers), who are struggling with the possibility of a suicidal youth should:
- Pay attention to their behaviors and any changes that may arise.
- Safely secure all medications, substances, and weapons at home.
- Consider making an appointment with a mental health provider.
If you’re a teen fighting mental health or suicide, remember that it’s a brave step when you ask for help. It takes courage to talk to someone about your issues and should never be seen as a sign of weakness. Try to live a healthy lifestyle that will help keep your mind balanced. A good diet and exercise can do wonders for the mind and body. Surround yourself with people who are healthy for you, and remember mental health is manageable and suicide is never the answer.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of harming themselves, please reach out for help!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or text CONNECT to 741741 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
To contact our office, you can reach us at 305-470-1670 or visit our website at www.citizenscrimewatch.org.
Until next time, be aware, make good choices, and be safe!
Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade Co. is not a mental health or suicide prevention entity, as we are only providing an overview of this very important topic. Please contact a professional if you’re seeking help.
Written by: Alina Lopez