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According to a new report from the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates among teens are rising drastically, as they have for the past 12 years.  The increase began in 2007, surging 56% by 2017. As a result, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults.

No cause for this spike has been determined; some speculate that the use of smart phones, social media, lack of community, lack of sleep, bullying, and changing social structures are possible causes.  However, mental health professionals warn against focusing on a single cause for the increase, as there is not enough research to draw a firm scientific conclusion.

Since this is not a “cure-able” problem, the most effective action parents can take to protect their kids is to educate themselves.  Signs that your child may be suicidal include:

  • Changes in personality: sadness, withdrawal, irritability, anxiety, exhaustion, indecision
  • Changes in behavior: deterioration in social relationships and school and/or work performance, reduced involvement in positive activities
  • Sleep disturbance: insomnia, oversleeping; nightmares
  • Changes in eating Habits: loss of appetite, weight loss, or overeating
  • Fear of losing control: erratic behavior, harming self or others

Ways to guard your child against suicide are as follows:

  • Interact with your teen positively.
  • Increase his/her involvement in positive activities (promote involvement in clubs/sports).
  • Appropriately monitor your teen’s whereabouts and communications with the goal of promoting safety (texting, Facebook, Twitter).
  • Be aware of your teen’s social environment (friends, teammates, coaches) and communicate regularly with other parents in your community.
  • Communicate regularly with your teen’s teachers to ensure safety at school.
  • Limit your teen’s access to alcohol, prescription medication, illegal drugs, knives and guns.
  • Talk with your teen about your concerns; ask him/her directly about suicidal thoughts.
  • Explain the value of therapy and medication to manage symptoms.
  • Address your concerns with other adults in your child’s life (teachers, coaches, family)
  • Discuss your concerns with his/her pediatrician to seek mental health referrals

If you believe your teen may be suicidal, seek attention from a mental health professional immediately and/or call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You may save your child’s life.


One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Doug McClarish
    Doug McClarish

    Mr. Bello, while your advice to parents may be well-intentioned, it is misguided. Above all, teenagers are seeking identity and autonomy. They need to know that they are supported, but they also need the freedom to make their own mistakes. I'm not implying that suicide is not negative or should not be prevented, but to monitor their social media, talk to their teachers and other parents, and go out of your way to keep substances from them is the definition of over-parenting. Moreover, it is somewhat infantilizing to a group that wants to be seen as nearly-adults. Sometimes teens need to hit emotional and social low-points to realize they need help. Again, I agree suicide is too low of a point, and we want to head that off, but conversation, as you suggest, goes a long way. Tell your readers to talk to teens about depression, to bring up suicide in a direct but cautious manner, and to offer them emotional support and validation without them having to ask but also without hovering. It's a good topic, Mr. Bello, but I think you should take the time to hear and cite many perspectives on the issue.

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