As my oldest son is entering the tween years, I find that one of the more difficult challenges of parenting is realizing that you do not always know what your children are thinking and feeling. While we all do our best to raise our children with a sound moral compass, empathy, and coping skills, we may still find ourselves wondering when do the typical ups and downs of adolescence become something to worry about.
While every parent would like to believe that suicide is not relevant to them or their family or friends, current statistics suggest that it is all too relevant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is currently the 2nd leading cause of death for youth age 10-24. One national CDC study found that roughly 18% of high school students admitted to thinking about suicide at some point during high school. How can you know if suicide is a risk for your family? And if you are worried about it, what can you do?
If you find yourself asking some of these questions, you are not alone. One of the best ways to try to pinpoint the specific behaviors or feelings that have you concerned is to think about the ways in which these behaviors are changes from the way your child normally acts. Are things different just at home or also at school? How about with friends? Siblings? Listing examples of the behaviors that fuel your concerns is a concrete and objective place to start.
FACTS: FIVE SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS FROM THE SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF TEEN SUICIDE
Feelings that seem different from the past, like hopelessness; fear of losing control; helplessness; worthlessness; feeling anxious, worried, or angry often
Actions that are different from the way your child acted in the past, especially things like talking about death or suicide, taking dangerous risks, withdrawing from activities or sports or using alcohol or drugs
Changes in personality, behavior, sleeping patterns, eating habits; loss of interest in friends or activities; or sudden improvement after a period of being down or withdrawn
Threats that convey a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, or preoccupation with death (phrases like "Life does not seem worth it sometimes") giving away favorite things, obtaining a weapon or stash of pills; suicide attempts like overdosing or cutting
Situations that can serve as "trigger points" for suicidal behaviors, including things like loss or death; humiliations, rejections, failures, getting in trouble at home, in school, or with the law; a break-up; or impending changes for which your child may feel scared or unprepared.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. If you believe your child could be at-risk, please reach out to a mental health professional right away.
At FRA, our students are taught to love God and love people, and they are surrounded and cared for by adults who are active in their lives beyond the classroom. The upper school advisory program assists students in their personal, social, and emotional development as they seek to become leaders of integrity and purpose. In the middle school, advisories meet every day to build trust and relationships in an environment that creates a culture of belonging. Through the advisory program, every upper and middle school student has an advisor who serves as a mentor and a guide. Our hope is that through programs like advisory and Club 4680, our students know they are loved and always have someone to talk to if they ever need help.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Upper School Counselor / Director of ASPIRE