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Suicide Concerns

​This information is included in our Guide to Self Harm. Click here to see the rest of the guide.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people 15-24 years old. Experts believe that statistics would be higher if other forms of self-destruction-drug overdoses, self-administered poisonings, some fatal one-car accidents-were taken into account. Suicide is a problem that, as a parent, you can't ignore.

There is no sure-fire way of detecting suicidal thoughts in your teen. But there are behavior patterns-warning signs-that may point toward suicidal thoughts. Learn to recognize them, and more importantly, learn to talk with your teen about them.

Warning Signs

  • A previous attempt-This warning sign may seem obvious, but eight of ten suicide attempts involve people who have tried to kill themselves before.
  • Threats or conversations about death-Seven of ten who attempt suicide had told someone that they wished to die, saying things such as, "I'd be better off dead," or "You all would be better off without me."
  • Problems in school, especially sudden problems, such as a drop in grades, falling asleep in class, emotional outbursts, or withdrawal.
  • Fear of punishment or parental criticism.
  • Problems with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Changes in physical appearance or habits, disturbed sleeping and eating habits, depression, expressions of low self-esteem.
  • Detachment from family and friends.
  • Giving away personal possessions.
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Statements of hopelessness.

It is not true that talking about suicide will give the idea to your child. In fact, not discussing your fears with your child is far riskier because he or she may take that as a sign that you don't care. Here are some tips on how to deal with talking about suicide with your teen.

How to help

  • Listen.
  • Express love and sympathy.
  • Validate your child's feelings.
  • Acknowledge his or her fear and pain.
  • Leave the door open for conversation, even if your child denies thinking about suicide.
  • Monitor your child's behavior for warning signs.
  • Encourage your child to get involved in a group at school or church: sports, drama, music-anything that helps him or her feel connected to others.

There are more than 200 suicide prevention centers throughout the U.S. Calling the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 can put you in touch with someone who can help-24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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