I’ve recently spoken to two moms whose teens were suicidal. Neither thought their teen was thinking of killing themselves. They didn’t see any warning signs.
In one case, Diane had noticed her daughter, Chloe, had been overreacting to little things at home. Diane thought maybe it was from the pressure of the new school year or perhaps just hormones. However, when Chloe blew up at her brother for supposedly losing her hairbands (which in fact Chloe had accidentally tossed in with the dirty laundry), Diane decided to make an appointment for Chloe to see the school psychologist.
After seeing Chloe, the psychologist immediately called Diane. This was serious. Chloe had a plan for how she was going to kill herself. Diane was shocked; she had no idea that Chloe had even considered killing herself. Chloe entered an in-patient treatment program and got the help she needed.
The other mom, Susan, also did not see any suicide warning signs in her 16-year-old son Ryan. Susan and Ryan’s father had both volunteered for a few years on a suicide prevention hotline so they were well aware of the warning signs. Ryan planned out his suicide without either of his parents realizing what was going on. Tragically, he succeeded in killing himself last month.
Losing a child to suicide is a parent’s worst nightmare. What can we do to help prevent this type of tragedy with our own children? One thing we can do is discuss our concerns around suicide with our teens. We can ask them “Have you ever thought about killing yourself?” Asking the question won’t plant the idea in their heads, however, it will give them the opportunity to talk.
Do you really need to bring up such an unpleasant topic with your teens? Yes, you do. The 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and local schools found that one in 16 high school students had attempted suicide in the previous year.
If you'd like more information about youth suicide and talking to your teens, check out the Parent Resource Program by the Jason Foundation.