Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: Signs Parents Should Be Aware Of
Every year, people nationwide observe September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to shine a light on mental health and bring awareness to a topic many find difficult to discuss.
It’s essential that parents or caregivers know how to spot warning signs for suicide, learn what to do in a crisis and how to get help. Most youth suicides occur at home and the numbers are alarming: suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college age youth and youth ages 12-18. Among LGBTQ+ youth, 45% seriously considered suicide in the past year.
Given these sobering statistics, it’s important to learn about the warning signs of suicide, risks and how parents can best support their youth.
Warning signs may include, but are not limited to:
- Increased irritability
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep disturbance (either not sleeping or staying awake all night)
- Lack of energy
- Inability to think clearly/concentration problems
- Intense sadness and/or hopelessness
- Substance abuse
- Risky behavior
- Giving away possessions
Suicide often does not have one direct cause and youth who attempt or die by suicide often have a mix of risk factors in their life. The factors below have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as contributing to suicide risk.
Individual factors, such as:
- Previous suicide attempts
- Mental health conditions, such as depression
- Social isolation
- Substance use
Community and societal factors, such as:
- Barriers to health care
- Stigma associated with mental health
- Access to lethal means
What can you do if you are worried about your youth but not sure if he or she are at risk for causing harm to themselves? Some steps that parents can take include:
- Talk about mental health and suicide. Don’t wait for your child to come to you. Ask what’s wrong if he or she is sad, anxious, depressed or seems to be struggling. Listen and offer your support.
- Pay attention. Youth who think about suicide often show warning signs. Listen to what your child says and watch how your child acts. Never disregard threats of suicide as teenage drama.
- Discourage too much alone time. Encourage your youth to spend time with supportive friends and family.
- Monitor and talk about social media use. Keep an eye on your youth’s social media accounts. Social media can give teens valuable support, but it can expose them to hurtful things including bullying, rumors and peer pressure. If your youth is upset by social media posts, encourage him or her to talk to you or a trusted adult.
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Help your teen eat well, exercise and get regular sleep.
Parents should also be aware of the resources available for their youth, whether it’s a primary care physician or counseling center. For parents whose children attend college in another city or state, it’s important to know who you can reach out to if your youth is struggling. If you think your youth may be in immediate danger of harming themselves, take them to the emergency department or call 911.
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988lifeline.org
The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386 or thetrevorproject.org
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Kids, Teens and Young Adults | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness