Suicide in Teens and Young Adults

I recently met with a friend whose daughter committed suicide. Her daughter was a recovering alcoholic, and an argument with her significant other pushed her back towards drinking, and in the end, suicide. Sadly, our culture is seeing more and more suicide in the teen and young adult population. There seems to be a strange phenomenon occurring where suicide is almost contagious. In conjunction with this rise in suicide, we are seeing the occurrence of depression in teens and young adults.

One in five adults have clinical depression, and less than thirty percent seek therapy. Taking into account the hormonal issues that teens and young adults are dealing with, minus experienced coping skills as well as the adolescent and young adult pattern of exaggerating small things – for example a bad grade, a fight, etc. – and you have a perfect formula for depression and suicide. Moreover, teenage and young adult depression is difficult to recognize and distinguish from other psychological problems, such as anxiety, ADD and substance abuse.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Thus, it is important to look for and recognize the signs that potential suicide victims display. With early detection, depression is one of the easiest disorders to remediate. It is important to know your child, to remember you are a parent, and will always be a parent until the day you die; you are entitled to parent, interfere, and intervene for the safety of your child.

Parents can also try the following:

  1. Talk, talk, talk. Always have a running conversation with your teen or young adult. Talk to him about things that matter and pertain to him, including depression and suicide. There is always something that parents who are involved in their children’s lives can do to prevent suicide. And, as in all things, prevention is of course your best option. Know your child or young adult, his lifestyle, and his friends. If someone he knows commits suicide, it is imperative to immediately open the discussion while watching his responses.
  1. Be careful never to discount or dismiss your teen or young adults feelings. But rather, value and validate what they are willing to share; this allows you to be proactive.
  1. Before you raise an issue or problem with your teen or young adult, be certain you have done your homework and researched answers and solutions.
  1. Be aware of support services and mental health professionals. Offer your child not only access, but your company – letting him know you are there for them 100 percent.
  1. Pay attention to your child’s moods and feelings, and take seriously any threat of suicide. And, if your child has a substance abuse problem, pay attention to it, and deal with it honestly.
  1. Educate yourself on the most effective ways to discuss suicide and depression with your teen or young adult.

In the final analysis, suicide does have a contagious effect, and in fact, can be generational. It is important to actively recognize the signs of depression, substance abuse, changes in your teen’s behavior in school or on the job, so you can take the initiative, and intervene early.