Hearing the words “I don’t care” or “nothing matters” from your teen should be a red flag for parents. “While these comments could be chalked up to teen drama, they could also be a cry for help,” said Ashley Carver, DO, a pediatrician with Mission Pediatrics – McDowell.
Teenage years can be tumultuous and fraught with hormones, pressures to perform or struggles to fit in. Undiagnosed mental illnesses like anxiety or depression are also leading causes of teen despair. Teens often clam up, embarrassed by their feelings, especially when thoughts turn to suicide.
Talk Is Good
It’s a myth that talking about suicide will cause your child to act on those thoughts. “Communication is one of the best defenses,” said Dr. Carver. Create a safe, judgment-free environment early on to start important conversations with your child.
Ask open-ended questions about how he is feeling. Then listen. It is okay to ask if she is thinking about harming or killing herself.
Factors Linked to Suicidal Thoughts
While depression is the greatest risk factor for suicide, anxiety and other undiagnosed mental illness are contributors. Other leading factors for suicidal thoughts include:
- Bullying or cyberbullying
- Family history of suicide
- Parents with mental health disorders
- Major changes or stressors
- Conflict at home such as abuse, drug use or other trauma, or homelessness
- Struggles with sexual orientation
A teen who struggles with her identify or his self-image is at greater risk for suicide. Discovering your teen’s challenge is half the battle.
Watch for Big Changes
One of the biggest misunderstandings is that there has to be a specific reason for teens to consider suicide. Thoughts of suicide are not rational and are very hard to understand, especially for parents.
Help and hope are out there. “Studies show counseling combined with medication are effective options,” said Dr. Carver.
Ashley Carver, DO, is a pediatrician with Mission Pediatrics – McDowell.