Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24 years and it has been increasing every year since 2007? During the pandemic, teen suicide attempts are up 50% amongst teenage girls ages 14 to 17 years in 2021 compared to 2019, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
As a parent of 3 teenage daughters, I have seen firsthand how much this pandemic has impacted teenagers from a mental health perspective. We saw one of our daughter’s grades drop significantly in a 6 month period in the spring of 2021. She went from previously being a straight-A and conscientious student to then struggling to turn in basic homework and assignments.
She had no motivation. The heaviness and uncertainty of what was happening in the world led her into a real state of depression.
Not only have I seen the struggles with my own kids, but I personally know of 4 teenage girls in this age group in the past 6 months that have attempted suicide. This is a very real issue for teens right now and it is impacting a lot of families. Below are some signs to look for:
Warning Signs of Teen Suicide
According to the American Psychological Association, some of the warning signs of teen suicide include:
- Changes in appearance or hygiene
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- A sudden drop in grades
- Social withdrawal
- Talking about suicide or preoccupation with death
- Risky or reckless behaviors
- Talk about hopelessness or having nothing to live for
- Researching suicide methods or acquiring potential weapons
So What Can Parents Do?
Depending on the severity of the situation, listed below are some immediate steps that you can take as a parent:
- Call 911
- Call the Hotline for Suicide Prevention
- Talk To Your Child
- Reach out to your child’s pediatrician or doctor and ask for resources
- Reach out to your child’s school and ask to talk with the staff guidance counselor or school psychologist.
Suggestions on How to Help Your Child Manage Their Emotions:
I was someone that struggled with depression as a teenager and young adult, and I now work as a Holistic Health Coach. In my experience, listed below are some things to pay attention to and to be mindful of with your own child.
- Limit and pay attention to how much time your child is spending on electronic devices:
Computers and smartphones can provide temporary relief to help get your child’s mind off of intense emotions with a funny video or texting friends, however, excessive use of phones and devices can cause distractions that prevent your child from dealing with the emotions that they are feeling. This suggestion comes directly from my 16-year-old daughter.
She said if she was having a bad day, it was ok to go onto her phone for a short time to get lost on YouTube or to listen to music. However, she recognized when things were really bad for her, that she would use the phone as a way to numb her emotions. This would distract her mind so she did not have to feel the negative feelings. This became her tool to not deal with the emotional pain she was experiencing. She said oftentimes, she would feel worse after getting off the phone because the problem and the emotions were still there.
- Make sure your child has someone to talk to:
If they are not seeing a therapist make sure they have someone that they feel safe to confide in. Someone that will listen without judgment and that your child feels comfortable to talk to. It can be a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a parent, a grandparent. etc. I remember feeling so alone and feeling embarrassed to talk about how I was truly feeling. I was ashamed of the fact that I had dark thoughts.
- Let them know that they are not alone:
I remember feeling that no one truly knew who I was. If I would have known others that felt the same way, I would have definitely been more open to sharing how I was feeling. I would not have felt as different and alone.
- Doing something each day that makes your child happy and that takes their mind off of their depression:
Try to have your child do one thing a day that brings them peace or joy. Something that makes them smile and takes their mind off of the heaviness of their emotions. It could be as simple as listening to their favorite song, playing an instrument, going on a walk outside, playing a sport, watching a funny video, playing with their pet, etc.
There have been so many studies that show how positively impactful music, exercise, a walk in nature, or playing with your pet can have on a person emotionally and physically. That’s because the body releases feel-good hormones and endorphins during these activities that can improve a person’s mood.
- Have them focus on the present moment:
It can be really easy for depression and anxiety to spike when we as human beings go too far into the future into the “fear of the unknown”. With all of the uncertainty that is happening right now, it is important to bring your kids back to this moment right now. Are they safe at this moment? Is there one thing that they can be grateful for at this moment? Something that they can close their eyes and focus on for a couple of minutes to shift their mindset. If a person is feeling grateful, it can lessen the state of the heaviness of depression.
- Teenage Coaching Platforms: I have recently learned about a couple of programs that are specifically focused on teens & kids. I have not used them personally but I have heard good things about them. One resource is Dr. J Teenage Coach and another is Brightline.
Listed Below Are Some Additional Resources, Articles, and Links You Can Dive Into for Suggestions and Advice on How to Speak to Your Kids When They Are Feeling Down:
- Talking About 13 Reasons Why & Teen Suicide: Tips for Parents
- 10 Things Parents can do to Prevent Suicide
- How to Communicate With and Listen to Your Teen
- Mental Health and Teens: Watch for Danger Signs
- “13 Reasons Why”: Talking to Your Kids About Suicide
- AAP: Suicide Prevention Tool kit
- Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents
- CDC: Suicide rising across the US
- CDC: QuickStats: Suicide Rates*,† for Teens Aged 15–19 Years, by Sex — United States, 1975–2015
- National Suicide Prevention Month
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