National Suicide Prevention Week

 

Suicide claims 1 million lives worldwide every year.  1 million.  That’s 1 life every 40 seconds.  In addition to this alarming statistic, there are several million attempts each year.

 

In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.

 

Among youth (defined as ages 15-24), suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death, claiming 1 life every 2 hours.  That’s worth repeating:  1 youth completes suicide every 2 hours.  And for every completed suicide by a youth, 100-200 attempts are made.

 

Suicide has touched my life more than once, both personally and professionally.  I know firsthand the pain of being left behind.  I know that suicide changes families, strains relationships, and leaves survivors with the impossible task of moving forward.  I know what it’s like to wonder if I could have made a difference.  I know about the what ifs…

 

Teen suicide tends to command media attention when bullying is involved.  These stories hit the airwaves and leave us all feeling horrified and helpless.  Often, the parents report making several attempts to seek help from schools to stop the bullying.  These stories pop up a couple of times a year.  They cause us to pause for a moment and empathize with the families.  They cause us to experience outrage and anger.  They cause us to voice our concerns about bullying and hatred.

 

But then, we go on with our lives.  We have children to care for, jobs to do, and endless to-do lists to get done.

 

And what about the rest of them?  If one youth completes suicide every two hours…there are a lot of stories that we haven’t heard.

 

September 9-15 is National Suicide Prevention Week.  This week is dedicated to raising awareness, spreading information, and talking about a problem that affects countless families in the United States.

 

That said, below are a few things that you need to know:

 

The Warning Signs:

 

  • Declining school performance
  • Loss of interest in social activities and/or sports and other extra curricular activities
  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness, possibly combined with anxiety
  • Sleep disturbance:  Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight

 

Additional Warning Signs:

 

  • Suicidal ideation (thoughts and/or plans)
  • Substance abuse
  • Anger
  • Mood change
  • Reckless behavior

 

Connecting with tweens and teens can prove to be a very specific form of art.  They tend to hide their emotions.  They might be embarrassed to tell you the details.  Self-esteem is almost always a work in progress.  It’s a very difficult time for many kids, and parents struggle to strike the right balance.

 

What should a parent do?

 

Parents can:

 

  • Provide unconditional support
  • Listen
  • Avoid undue criticism
  • Take an interest
  • Remain connected
  • Ask open ended questions
  • Be there
  • Seek professional help, when necessary
  • Learn the warning signs

 

It is the job of tweens and teens to separate, to push parents away.  They spend their days working on proving their independence.  Give them opportunities to be responsible and independent, but stay involved.  Get to know their teachers.  Know what extra curricular activities they choose. Know their friends.  Attend their games, concerts, and plays.  Be involved.

 

Parents who allow open communication with their children stay involved.  Yes, you need to set boundaries.  Yes, you need rules.  But children need to know that they can seek help, guidance, and support from their parents.  Be there for them…no matter what.

 

Suicide is preventable.  Too many youths feel hopeless in this world.  Too many youths don’t know where to turn for support.

 

It is the job of the parent to know where to get information and where to point their child when they need someone to listen.

 

Statistics show that hopelessness is a better predictor for suicide than a diagnosis of depression.  Be involved.  Know what your child is going through.  Find ways to connect.  And be supportive, no matter what.

 

I am here to tell you that suicide is devastating.  There is no coming back, there is only moving on…and that can take a lifetime.

 

Don’t ignore the warning signs for one more day.

 

Do you need help right now?  Please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

 

What can you do to raise awareness in your community?  Talk.  Use the right language (suicide is not a bad word).  Listen.  And share this post.

 

You just might help someone in crisis…

 

 

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About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)

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