With September being suicide prevention month, we thought now was a good time to talk about how to prevent suicide in your teen or young adult. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable topic that can be challenging to discuss. But it is essential to know and understand critical information surrounding your child’s mental health.
It’s crucial to pay attention and recognize the risk factors for young adult and teen suicide, warning signs your child may be suicidal, and how you can best support them if they are dealing with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Current Statistics About Young Adults, Teens, and Suicide
Unfortunately, suicide has become increasingly more common in our society thanks to the pressures of social media, Hollywood, cyberbullying, and a worldwide pandemic. And while it affects individuals of all ages, teens and young adults have the highest suicide rates compared to other ages.
To give you an idea of just how common suicide is among the younger age groups, here are a few startling statistics according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI).
- suicide is the second leading cause of death in U.S. individuals aged 10-14
- suicide is the third leading cause of death in U.S. individuals aged 25-34
- approximately 20% of high school students admit to having serious thoughts of suicide
- 9% of these high school students made a suicide attempt
- 80% of teens who die by suicide show warning signs
- 90% of teens who die by suicide have at least one mental health condition
These statistics are why suicide prevention month is so important. The negative stigma surrounding mental health is literally harming the younger generations. Mental illness and knowing how to prevent suicide need to be discussed. Not just in September, but all year round.
Risk Factors of Young Adult and Teenage Suicide
Thinking about teens and suicide is far from enjoyable, but knowing what risk factors to look for could save a life. That being said, there’s no one single cause leading to suicide. The most common condition associated with suicide is depression. And unfortunately, it can go undiagnosed and untreated, especially in teens.
Parents tend to chalk their son or daughter’s change in behavior, mood, and attitude up to teenage hormones and angst. While it’s true your teenager or young adult experiences many changes in the younger years, brushing off symptoms of depression and anxiety could mean you blind yourself to the risk factors of suicide.
Here are some of the most common risk factors for young adult and teen suicide:
- Prior suicide attempts: If your teen or young adult has tried to take their life in the past year, they are at a higher risk of attempting again. The risk remains high for a minimum of one year after a suicide attempt. Research has also pointed to self-harm, like cutting, as an indicator of a higher-risk teen or young adult.
- Social issues relating to gender or sexual identity: Teens and young adults identifying as LGBTQI+ are four times more likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual or cisgender peers. This isn’t to say that gender or sexual identity is directly linked to suicide. But because teens and young adults identifying as LGBTQI+ tend to experience more hostility, rejection, and discrimination than others. Not to mention, if you aren’t supportive of them when they come out to you, you increase their risk of suicide.
- Depression: One in five adolescents and teens deal with depression. These individuals are more likely to feel hopeless, sad, and overwhelmed. Many are skilled at hiding these feelings, making it extremely dangerous since they are at a higher risk for attempting to take their lives.
- Other mental health illnesses: If your child has any mental health condition such as an eating disorder, mood disorder, anxiety, or anything else, they are at greater risk of suicide.
- Substance use: According to a 2017 study, teens and adolescents who use substances, including alcohol, are more likely to exhibit suicidal behavior.
- Family issues: This is a risk factor you can keep a closer eye on. If your child has experienced abuse, trauma, or violence, they are at increased suicide risk. Other familial concerns like separation or divorce, the death of a loved one, a family member going to jail, or military deployment have also been linked to teens and suicide.
- Bullying: Unfortunately, bullying isn’t anything new to teens and young adults. But cyberbullying adds to the increased risk of suicide too. According to one study, adolescents and teens who are victims of cyberbullying are about 12 times more likely to consider suicide.
- Easy access to firearms: If you have guns in the house, keep them locked up and safe from the hands of teens and young adults. For teens age 15-19, the most common cause of suicide is death by firearm. That being said, even if your guns are locked up, a home with firearms increases your child’s risk of suicide due to a lack of impulse control in their developing brains.
What You Can Do If You Think Your Child Is At Risk
Even if your child hasn’t been diagnosed with a mental health condition, that doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk. Don’t be afraid to stay involved in their lives. They may feel like you’re “butting in,” but they don’t realize you need to keep tabs on their mental health and risk of suicide. Here are some critical things you can do to do what you can to prevent suicide.
- Pay attention
One of the most important things you can do to prevent suicide as a parent or caregiver is to be present. Pay attention. Don’t tune out. Stay alert and recognize any changes in their behavior, actions, or words. Even if they tell you to leave them alone, do your best to remind them that you love them and are available if they ever need anything – without judgment.
- Don’t shrug off potential warning signs
As we mentioned earlier, it’s easy for parents of teens and young adults to dismiss “something” as “nothing.” Maybe your child is being “dramatic” and saying things that raise red flags. A lot of times, teens and young adults will hint to their parents or caregivers in one way or another that they are considering suicide.
Here are some things you may hear your child say that you don’t want to shrug off:
- “You won’t have to worry about me for very much longer.”
- “The world would be a better place without me.”
- “I don’t care about anything anymore.”
- “I wish I was dead.”
- “Why can’t I just go to sleep and never wake up?”
Whatever you do, don’t simply chalk things like this up to “teenage drama.” They are anything but that. They are a cry for help.
- If they come to you, respond without judgment and with empathy.
One of the most crucial things you can do is to respond to cries for help with judgment. If you hear your teen or young adult say anything even remotely related to death, you need to stop what you’re doing and listen.
Don’t tell them they are being dramatic or overreacting. Instead, hear what they’re saying and validate them with understanding. Tell them you see that they are struggling and having a tough time. If they’ll let you hug them, do it. Tell them you care about them and that you want to help them get through these feelings of hopelessness.
- Seek professional help immediately
Your parental intuition is stronger than you think. If you’ve noticed a change in your son or daughter and you think they’re dealing with challenging mental concerns and contemplating suicide, there’s no harm in getting them into a professional for mental health treatment.
Even if they resist you, you could save their life by doing what needs to be done.
- Be direct
There’s no reason you need to skirt around the issue. Tell your child you don’t want them to hurt themselves. Tell them they matter to you and that they matter, period. Don’t downplay how concerned you are for them. They need you to know you really care and you love them the same, no matter what they’re feeling.
- Eliminate dangers
If there are guns in the house, remove them. If they are cutting, take away anything they could harm themselves with. If harmful pills or alcohol are in the house, get rid of them. It’s better safe than sorry.
- Don’t leave them alone.
If your teen or young adult is in immediate danger, it’s crucial not to leave them alone. If you aren’t physically near them, enlist a friend or loved one you trust to be with them. They may want to be left alone, but if they are suicidal, this is extremely dangerous.
- Support them in their treatment plan
Once they begin treatment with a mental health professional, it’s important you remain active in their treatment. Speak to their provider and perhaps even attend some of their therapy sessions if needed. If they require medication management, stay on top of it, ensuring they are taking their meds appropriately.
One of the Best Things You Can Do Is To Search for “Therapy Near Me for Teens or Young Adults”
Take a look at the statistics earlier in this post. Suicide is a serious concern, even if you don’t think it’ll ever happen in your family. Searching for “therapy near me for teens or young adults” is nothing to be ashamed of. If your son or daughter needs help, they need you to help them get it.
Here at Dayrise Wellness in Lombard, IL, we specialize in treating teens and young adults. Those are our only patients. We understand the unique challenges your son or daughter faces in today’s world. Our team of highly-trained therapists can help your teen or young adults through their mental health struggles with patience, compassion, empathy, and understanding.
Not only that, but we can help you be the best advocate possible for their mental health – during suicide prevention month and throughout the year.
Your teen or young adult deserves to live a life free of suicidal thoughts. And together, we can help them get there.