Unfortunately, I am seeing more and more teen suicide, and attempted suicide in my practice today. Struggles for teens are real. As caregivers, we should never disregard the seriousness of their stresses or ignore any signs of a teen crying for help. Don’t assume that a teen will act exactly like an adult when they are struggling or depressed. They will handle stressful situations differently than us. Some teens might not portray any signs.
I will list the leading warning signs compiled by the AAFP:
The main cause of suicide is depression. https://familydoctor.org/depression-in-children-and-teens/
Do you understand depression? Depression is not something anyone can control. It is a condition that affects your brain’s chemicals. This change might be temporary, but there is a physical change. Do you tell your child to “buck up” if they need eyeglasses or contacts? Of course not! They can’t help it. Don’t assume they can help being depressed. Of course, there are many things we can do to overcome depression and help the brain, but that is another blog for another day.
Look at your family history. Talk to the child’s grandparents. Is anyone else depressed? Mental health issues can be genetic. Be aware of your family history and educate and arm yourself.
Is your teen comfortable with your views of mental health? How do you talk negatively about others that might be depressed or withdrawn? Do you criticize, or do you educate your children when someone doesn’t behave like WE think they should? Do you teach them that maybe that person is struggling? Our kids will mimic our behavior. If they don’t believe you will accept who they are or that they might be struggling, they will hide their struggles from you. Educate yourself and have candid conversations about every aspect of their health. Have they withdrawn from things? Are they acting out in any way? Have they turned to substance abuse? These are clues that something might be wrong.
Are you getting your teen yearly physicals? I don’t mean sports physical. Those are not comprehensive! We tend to forget about well-child visits after our children have all their immunizations, or when they get into their busy teen years. Physicals can help to open the conversation about how they are feeling about themselves. They might tell us something that they won’t tell you. During that physical, talk to us about their mental health. Let us know if there is a family history of mental health issues. Bring their medication list with you so we can evaluate everything together.
Let’s prevent teen depression and suicide together.