Suicide was the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year old’s globally in 2012. While teenagers may go through difficult emotions such as loneliness or extremely stressful situations that have grave ramifications on their self-esteem and self-concept, they can also be driven to self-harm or even suicide. A suicidal teen is likely to be filled with many despairing and negative emotions that make it difficult for him to see beyond a very narrow focus. They are likely to feel helpless about being able to change the present and therefore hopeless about the future and are driven to self-destruction.
1. Suicide can be prevented. More often than not, suicide is not an impulsive decision that happens on the spur of the moment. In fact, it is a well thought out decision, which means that there could be many clear warning signs of people who might be contemplating suicide. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant to these signs, and to know how to respond to them. Not only can they give clues about impending suicidal behaviour but, more often than not, they are desperate cries for help by the child or adolescent.
2. Recognize warning signs. Certain behaviours that may communicate a suicidal intent may include sudden changes in mood, social isolation or withdrawal, indulging in risk-taking behaviour, increased alcohol or drug use, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, etc.
3. Talk about it. If you suspect that a teenager is considering suicide, you should not hesitate to talk about it. This will not plant the idea in the teen’s head. On the contrary, the teenager is most likely considering suicide as a last resort. But if you talk about it, you could help them realize that there could be an alternative available. If someone talks about self-harm or suicide, it is important to take them seriously and to evaluate the risk factors for the same.
4. Listen. While it is very distressing as a parent to see your teenager feeling depressed, and you would feel like doing something for him or her. But the most valuable step you could take would be to serve as a good listener for your teenager. It is important to be able to stay calm, and keep your worries aside, instead giving them a chance to talk.
5. Bust myths. Some teenagers may also harbour certain myths about suicide that are sometimes propagated in the media. They might think suicide is an act of bravery or rebellion. At the same time, such signs should not be overlooked as attention seeking tactics, and should be addressed seriously.
6. Social skills training. Besides dealing with a crisis situation, it is important for schools and the community to promote active social skills training, to help the youth to develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with their internal conflicts. Efforts could be made to focus on parents and teachers alike building trust and rapport with them, so as to enable an atmosphere of open communication.
7. Detoxify the environment. If the adolescent is at risk for suicide, he or she should not be left alone. All dangerous items that are potentially harmful including sharp objects, pills,
and poisonous substances need to be removed from the reach of the teenager. He or she should not be allowed access to the balcony or the terrace either.
8. Seek professional advice. It is absolutely crucial to seek help from a psychiatrist at the earliest to prevent any untoward incident. This is especially so for the adolescents who are severely depressed or at high risk for suicide. Suicidal thoughts and intents are very often associated with a treatable mental disorder like depression, and such a realization can not only instil a sense of confidence but also make the adolescent more amenable to seeking professional help.