How to Prevent Teen Suicide

By: Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, School Psychologist

Life is short. Too short for many of our youth. This article, then, is a tribute to Jessica Fashano and a wake up call to parents of children at high risk for attempting suicide. The third leading cause of death for adolescent and young adults between the ages of ten to twenty-four years is suicide. Do it Now Foundation theorizes that there are three main groups of young adults who try to kill themselves.

(1) Well adjusted, but coping with a stressful environmental crisis that could trigger a suicide attempt. Possible triggers: parents’ divorce, separation, death of a friend or close family member, new school, school failure, relationship break-up, or other major loss/
(2) Depressed or anxious. Young adults who feel stressed out, burnt out, or emotionally down have a higher risk of suicide. The risk climbs substantially when the individual has emotional problems, abuses drugs or uses substances to self medicate, or have experienced interpersonal loss.
(3) Impulsive, aggressive, or self-destructive. This is the highest risk group and are comprised of adolescents and young adults who have run away from home, are drug and alcohol abusers. As attempts by teens to take one’s own life is an impulsive act, suicide is highly associated with impulsivity in kids.

Parents, what you can do to prevent suicide in your family
(1) Maintain a stable environment within the home. Chaos, confusion do much to exacerbate feelings of self doubt, concern about one’s future and family.
(2) Live in the present moment. The presence of a calm, accepting parent does much to ameliorate a child’s negative and depressed mood.
(3) Stop the busyness. Incessant chatter, shuttling to soccer, basketball or cheerleading practice, worried discussions about work and the economy, unnecessary trips to the mall add to the sense of disconnection and disassociation with one’s parent.
(4) Refrain from minimizing your child’s problems or comparing them to one’s own.
(5) Love your children for who they are. To apply pressure to an open and/or closed wound lessens the chance of the rupture rapidly healing. The same with a perceived deficit, peculiarity or quirk. With acceptance, a little time and a lot of love, those minor quirks become eccentricities that add to your child’s character.
(6) Routinely call your child (if no longer living in the home) or schedule regular ‘check ins,’ to determine how your child’s day is progressing.
(7) Return to formal written letters, postal cards, holiday notes for sending send well-wishes and pictures. When away from home, young adults maintain ‘treasure or hope chests’, keepsake boxes and albums filled with family mementos and refer to them when lonely.
(8) Forgive. If your child disappoints you occasionally, or often, think to yourself, ‘Will this matter five years from now?’ If not, forget it and move on.
(9) Refrain from using your child as your best friend, therapist or confidant. Children have enough problems to bear and can not withstand shouldering the problems of others.
(10) Say I love you.

With so much focus on our jobs, career and socio-economic advancement; we fail to realize and live the mantra that ‘parenthood is the most important job we will ever have.’ Carpe diem.

Web Resources
Suicide statistics

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Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya at ishareknowledge dot com

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