All Teenagers Get the Blues: But When Is It Serious?
Preventing Suicide: What Can Parents Do?
KNOW the RISK FACTORS; situations, characteristics, behaviors that are often an indication that your teen is struggling and in need of help:
- Signs of acute or chronic depression
- Sudden changes in behavior (withdrawal, apathy, moodiness)
- Recent loss of significant person(s) through death, divorce, rejection, break-up, family move, etc.
- Family history of depression or suicide
- Severe family dysfunction
- Social isolation
- Easy access to weapons - NOTE: The presence of a firearm dramatically increases risk. A “low moment” can become a tragedy, simply because a lethal means is handy. If your teenager is experiencing a difficult time, have someone keep your firearms in a safe place OUTSIDE YOUR HOME until your teen is healthy and well-connected to resources.
- A tendency to act impulsively in other matters
- Serious trouble with school administration or law
- Social rejection
- Previous suicide attempts or threats
KNOW the WARNING SIGNS - indications that there is some risk for suicide:
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
- Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
- Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities-seemingly without thinking
- Feeling trapped; as though there is no way out
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
- Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Experiencing dramatic mood changes
- Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
If You Are Concerned About Your Teenager:
Let your teen tell you of his situation and his feelings. Don't give advice or feel obligated to find simple solutions. Don't get into reasoning or moral arguments. Ask questions and really listen to the answers.
- TAKE THE COMMENTS SERIOUSLY
Most teens who consider suicide tell other people about their thoughts and plans.
You don't have to be a therapist. You are a parent who is concerned about your child's safety. Get help from a professional.
- LET YOUR TEEN KNOW THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED
If you are worried, say so. If your teen is telling you about thoughts of suicide, you are right to be worried.
At times everyone feels sad, hurt or hopeless. You know what that's like. Share your feelings. Let your teen know that she is an important member of the family and that you love her. Let her know that you will help. Keep the lines of communication open.
If you see warning signs, ask directly, “Are you having thoughts of suicide” or “Are you thinking of suicide?” And if the answer is “yes”, thank your son or daughter for their honesty and make a plan to get help.
Don't be sworn to secrecy. Talk to another adult to get help and support and to find out what to do next. You can talk to your spouse, a friend, a school counselor, school psychologist or school social worker, a minister, a community mental health agency, a private counselor, or a family doctor. Get help for yourself and for him.
SOME IMPORTANT DON'TS:
- Don't assume that this is just a bid for attention, or that ignoring your teen will help.
- Don't assume that your teen knows why he feels this way. He may be confused or scared, and may not be thinking clearly or understand what's happening.
- Don't assume that “this will go away” with time, or that this is just a stage your teen is going through.
- Don't use this as a time to teach important life lessons. SAFETY FIRST. You can work on developing coping skills and personal strength or on preventing future crises once you know that your teen is safe.
- Don't assume that your teen can take care of himself at that moment. You may need to make some decisions for her. If you are unsure of your teen's safety and she refuses to talk with you or a counselor, get help anyway. Don't leave your teen alone if you doubt her safety. In an emergency, you can always call 911 for help.
Other Resources for Parents:
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA/opens new window)
DBSA offers in-person and online support groups for people living with a mood disorder as well as friends and family. Parents who have a child living with depression or bipolar can join the online community for parents, the Balanced Mind Parent Network.
Youth Suicide: Frequently Asked Questions for Parents (opens new window)
A list of frequently asked questions for parents regarding depression and suicide in children and teens along with guidance from the Maine Suicide Prevention Program.
Virginia Suicide Prevention Resource Directory, 2020 (PDF/1.10 Megabytes)
This directory is designed to provide a comprehensive easy to use reference of programs available in Virginia to assist individuals who may need suicide prevention resources. The directory also provides a list of available resources that are needed when people are impacted by suicide. Whenever possible, all known national, state, and local resources are provided.
Shenandoah Valley Mental Health Services Directory, 2018 (PDF/1.85 Megabytes)
The intention of this directory is to serve as a useful tool to find out what mental health services are available in the cities of Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro, and the counties of Augusta, Bath, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, and Shenandoah. If you are involved in education, health provision, human resources, social services, a religious affiliation, or any position where you are in close contact with others, you regularly meet people who need help. That person may need a support group, a professional helper, a treatment program, or a public agency. Using this directory, you can help that person to get the assistance he or she needs.