What do I need to know about teenage suicide?
Before you can help anyone, you need to know the facts about teenage suicide. When you know what signs to look for, you'll be more able to try and help save a life-maybe even your own.
If you are in crisis now and need referral to a mental health professional, call one of the crisis numbers listed on this site immediately.
What are the warning signs of teenage suicide?
The teen may threaten suicide, either directly or indirectly.
The teen seems obsessed with death.
Themes of death or depression permeate the teen's conversation, writing, reading or artwork.
The teen seems constantly bored or world-weary, has poor concentration, shows declining quality of schoolwork.
There are dramatic changes in personality, appearance or behavior.
The teen demonstrates aggressive, rebellious and/or disobedient behavior.
The teen suffers an overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection.
The teen frequently complains about stomachaches, headaches, fatigue or other physical symptoms often linked to emotions.
The teen changes eating or sleeping patterns.
There are signs of excessive substance use.
The teen has suffered a recent, significant loss such as the death of a parent or friend.
The person is frequently absent from work or school.
The teen shows an inability to carry out the normal tasks of daily life.
The teen may become sexually promiscuous.
There is a noted isolation or withdrawal from friends, family, etc.
The teen ends significant relationships or commitments.
The teen may give away treasured possessions.
Note: This is not a complete list, nor will any one person exhibit all of the signs
What are the facts and myths of teenage suicide?
Teens who talk about suicide rarely commit suicide.
Most of the teens who attempt or commit suicide give clues or warnings of their intentions. Do not ignore statements like, "You'll be sorry when I'm dead," or "I can't see my way out." No matter how casually or jokingly said, these may really indicate suicidal feelings.
Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Actually, the opposite is true. Asking someone directly will often lower the anxiety level and act as a deterrent to suicidal behavior. Discussing suicide openly and honestly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Improvement following a suicidal crisis means the risk is over.
The greatest danger of suicide exists during the first three months following an attempt or deep depression. A "miraculous, overnight recovery" could be a significant danger signal. It may take months to feel consistently better and in control.
Suicidal people are mentally ill.
Perhaps only about 25 percent of them are actually psychotic. Although many suicidal people suffer extreme distress and emotional pain, these are not necessarily signs of mental illness.
There is no correlation between alcohol and suicide.
Alcohol and suicide often go hand in hand. People wishing to commit suicide frequently do so under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Even people who do not normally drink may ingest alcohol shortly before killing themselves.
The suicidal person wants to die and feels there is no turning back.
Suicidal people are usually ambivalent, wavering until the last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want d
Which teens are most at risk of committing suicide?
Those who have had major changes in their lives, such as a parental divorce, a move to another city or school, etc.
Those who have had problems with school or the law.
Those who have problems with alcohol and/or other drugs.
Teens who have suffered serious illness or injury.
Those who have had a recent loss of a friend or family member (even a pet) through death or suicide.
Teens who have broken up with a girl- or boyfriend.
Those who suffer from depression.
Those teens who are gifted or have a learning disability.
Young persons who are gay, lesbian or questioning their sexuality.
Young women who are pregnant.
Teens who are currently being or have been abused.
How can I tell if a teen is at risk?
Ask the following questions to help determine the risk level:
1. Have you been sad or unhappy?
A "yes" confirms the person has been feeling some depression.
2. Do you ever feel hopeless or does it seem as if things will never get better?
"Yes" indicates feelings of hopelessness, which often accompany suicidal thoughts.
3. Do you have thoughts of death?
"Yes" indicates suicidal wishes, but not necessarily suicidal plans. Many depressed people say they'd be better off dead and wish they'd die in their sleep or get killed in an accident. However, most of them say they have no intention of killing themselves.
4. Do you ever have any actual suicidal impulses or any urge to kill yourself?
If yes, ask about their specific plans. What method have they chosen-hanging, pills, a gun? Do they have the rope, the pills or the gun?
5. Have you determined when you will kill yourself?
If they plan to do it soon, the danger is grave.
6. Is there anything holding you back, such as family or religious convictions?
If they say no, that people would be better off without them, and if they have no other deterrents, suicide is much more likely.
7. Have you ever made a suicide attempt in the past?
Past attempts practically guarantee future attempts. Suicidal gestures can be more dangerous than they seem, since many of these people ultimately do kill themselves. Take all suicide attempts seriously.
8. Would you be willing to talk to someone or seek help?
If yes, determine to whom they should talk. If the suicidal person is cooperative and has a clear plan to reach out for help, the danger is less than if the person is stubborn, secretive, hostile and unwilling to get help.
What should I know about depression?
Depression is not the same as feeling "blue."
Being depressed does not mean you are "crazy."
No one knows why certain people get depressed.
Heredity may be factor, but so are environment and events in a person's life.
We do know that depression starts with a biochemical imbalance in the brain.
There are two types of depression: clinical depression and dysthymia.
Clinical depression is the most severe.
Dysthymia, while less severe, lasts longer. A person will experience two or more of the following symptoms for at least 2 years:
Depression and Suicide
Depression does not always lead to suicide.
Depression can be treated readily, and the success rate for treating depression is high.
Counseling by a psychologist or other mental health professional may be enough to help.
If a person needs medication, only a psychiatrist, a medical doctor with further studies in mental health, may prescribe it.
Severe, suicidal depression is a very real medical emergency.
If you or someone you know is depressed, see that you or the person gets help before suicidal thoughts can occur.
Source: A.N.S.W.E.R. - Adolescents Never Suicide When Everyone Responds www.teenanswer.org