The Warning Signs of Teen Suicide
Child psychologists address when parents should be concerned
An South Texas teen took her own life last week and the 15-year-old's family blames bullying for her actions.
The eighth grader lived in Hebbronville, near San Antonio. Her family said she was called "ugly" and "should kill herself" at school and online.
A Mississippi teen was charged with cyber-stalking after an 18 year old in Lamar County committed suicide and a recent edition of Newsweek wrote a story with the headline "Teen suicide is contagious, and the problem may be worse than we thought."
Lisa Elliott, a licensed psychologist and clinic manager of Cook Children’s Behavioral Health in Denton, says some children may threaten suicide in an attempt to get attention or others may be struggling with depression.
“But it doesn’t matter,” Elliott said. “You must take the threat very seriously. If a child is talking about suicide, get help immediately. It’s critical not to ignore this cry for help regardless of their reasons.”
Following a suicide in the community, parents should take the time to talk to their kids.
“Use it as an opportunity to discuss their possible feelings of grief or confusion and be a listening ear and support them,” said Joy Crabtree, a licensed psychologist and clinic manager for Southlake and Northeast Clinic. “Additionally, parents can ask their child if they have ever had any extreme feelings of sadness or thoughts about hurting themselves. If current feelings about wanting to hurt themselves are acknowledged, parents should let their therapist or psychologist know right away. If they do not have a therapist or psychologist, or they are not available, they should be taken to a local mental health facility or hospital emergency room for an evaluation.”
Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds and that 90 percent of those who commit suicide had a psychiatric disorder.
Elliott says teens with chronic illness, such as depression, are no different than any other child and generally want to be treated just like any other kid. But they should receive professional help and be assessed for anxiety and depression.
“Parents should watch for any change in mood like sadness, depression, hopelessness, irritability, anger and hostility,” Elliott said. “You may see more tearfulness and changes in activity level. Watch for more withdrawal from friends and family, change in friends and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.”
Elliott says warning signs of teen suicide include:
- Increased use of alcohol/drugs
- Preoccupied with death (writing, drawings)
- Talking about feelings of hopelessness
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Telling loved ones goodbye
- Decline in performance
- Giving prized possessions away
- Isolating and withdrawing
- Acting highly anxious or agitated
- Acting reckless and taking risks
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating
- Dramatic changes in personality and/or appearance
If you feel your child needs help, please call 682-885-3917 for a referral into Cook Children’s Psychology department.
Suicide in children and adolescents is a difficult topic to discuss. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among all children and adolescents in the U.S. As a mental health professional, my worst fear is a child prematurely ending his or her own life. Learn more from this Psychiatrist and mother about this topic by reading this story.