September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, but as the month fades away, let us not forget that suicide continues to be a real-life struggle for numerous Americans, especially among the adolescent population. Indeed, according to numerous data sources, e.g., Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Mental Health, etc., teen suicide continues to remain problematic and is representative of being the second leading cause of death amongst this population and yet is often preventable. In many cases, we, as parents, fail to recognize the warning signs.
As a parent myself, I sometimes take for granted the belief that my teens would come to me if they were struggling with personal issues or otherwise in a mental health crisis. So often we grow accustom to our teens’ growing need for privacy and autonomy and the metaphorical retreat to their bedroom as normal, adolescent behavior. After all, we were teenagers once ourselves and, from my own experience, my bedroom with the door shut was my refuge. But at what point does the typical-teen experience of bedroom hibernation become unhealthy isolation?
Teenagers are particularly fragile with respect to their cognitive growth. For example, their ability to logically deduce, problem-solve, cope, etc. are significantly hindered by their underdeveloped emotional regulatory ability, especially when dealing with social and relational stressors. Consequently, our role as parents necessitates hypervigilance as it concerns our vulnerable teens, both in terms of observing probable warning signs (see below), as well communicating directly with our children and asking questions… a lot of questions. In short, be nosy, be persistent, and arguably most importantly, be direct when asking questions about their thoughts and feelings about suicide, depression and self-harm. Our children are listening and so must we.
For more information or if you know of someone who may be at risk, please contact us; we at High Country Behavioral Health are here to help. If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.
Idaho Suicide Prevention 208-398-4357
Wyoming-Based Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-4357
1 Ruch, D. A., Sheftall, A. H., Schlagbaum, P., Rausch, J., Campo, J. V., & Bridge, J. A. (2019). Trends in suicide among youth aged 10 to 19 years in the United States, 1975 to 2016. JAMA network open, 2(5), e193886-e193886. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/article-abstract/2733430.
2 Poland, S., Lieberman, R., & Niznik, M. (2019). Suicide contagion and clusters—Part 1: What school psychologists should know. Communique, 47(5). Retrieved from https://www.nova.edu/suicideprevention/suicide_contagion_and_clusters_part_1_what_school_psychologists_should_know.pdf.
3 Bhattacharjee, S. (2019). Child and adolescent suicide: Facts, assessment, and preventive strategies. Eastern Journal of Psychiatry, 21(2). Retrieved from http://easternjpsychiatry.org/index.php/about/article/view/90/86.
4 Walker, D. M., Cunningham, A. M., Gregory, J. K., & Nestler, E. J. (2019). Long-term behavioral effects of post-weaning social isolation in males and females. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 13, 66. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00066/full.
5 National Alliance on Mental Health. (2019). Risk of suicide. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Risk-of-Suicide.