If you are like me, with a teenager -son or daughter- you may feel you’ve been doing your best by protecting them from the pandemic, keeping them safe from civil unrest, helping them with distance learning, and are less worried about them hanging with “the wrong crowd.” But have you talked to your children, teen, or young adult about the “S” word? Nope, I am not talking about S.E.X. this time. I’m talking about SUICIDE. This is the other “S” word that is still, too often, considered taboo to discuss in our society.
I didn’t capitalize suicide to make you anxious but to get your attention. Suicide is the second cause of death among youth, ages 10 to 24! Unfortunately, many of us, especially in the Black and People of Color communities grew up to think talking about feelings of sadness or depression is a sign of weakness. This belief, carried into parenting, contributes to our youth having suicidal thoughts (ideation). They experience shame and guilt and attempt to solve a lot of problems on their own to avoid such stigmas.
You may think you communicate well with your children and they show all the signs of successful parenting. They have good grades, are obedient, have friends, and don’t use drugs. Unfortunately, these are not the telltale signs that blow the whistle on such alarming youth suicide statistics. To the contrary, your child may show no signs of distress, depression, anxiety, or school troubles. But that did not prevent Paige Murray’s son, Alec, from committing suicide. He was 13 years old in the eighth grade when he decided to take his own life.
“We think it was an incredibly impulsive act by a hormonal young man,” said Paige.
After her son’s death, Murray shared her story with local media because she felt parents need to be aware of the importance of talking to their children about suicide, even when they appear to be happy and well-adjusted. Here are some of the behavioral signs that may lead to depression and suicide vital for you to know:
10 covert or less noticeable signs include
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
- Withdrawal from friends and family members.
- Acting-out behaviors and running away.
- Alcohol and drug use.
- Neglecting one’s personal appearance.
- Unnecessary risk-taking.
- Obsession with death and dying.
- More physical complaints often linked to emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness (fatigue).
- Loss of interest in school or normal activities, feeling bored, or problems focusing.
- Lack of response to praise.
More overt or obvious signs include
- Searching social media apps for the word “suicide” and taking suicide quizzes.
- Expressing strange thoughts.
- Feeling he or she wants to die.
- Says “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide.”
- Gives verbal hints, such as “I won’t be a problem much longer,” or “If anything happens to me, I want you to know…”
- Gives away favorite things or throws away important belongings.
- Becomes suddenly cheerful after being depressed.
- Writes one or more suicide notes.
- Making plans or efforts toward committing suicide.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by these lists. Remember the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” You are not alone in this effort. If you find, despite your efforts to listen to and talk with your offspring about their feelings, their behavior doesn’t change, do not despair. You can seek outside help before it’s too late.
If your youth asks to talk to someone, do not ignore his or her request. Also, do not take it personal and see yourself as an unfit parent. It is oftentimes a lot easier to talk to an objective person, such as a therapist like myself. Talk therapists have the tools and resources to help your children relax and express their feelings and needs. Together, we can, not only protect your children but also provide them inspiration and tools to overcome depression, hopelessness and suicidal ideation. Let’s create a safe space where our youth can feel that it is okay to reach out for help.
- Call National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
- Register here for FREE webinar 9.1.1. Parenting Masterclass: How to Help Youth Survive, Thrive and Stop Thinking Suicide
Schedule here today your complimentary consultation with me.