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Teen Suicide: What Is It And What Do I Do?

Suicide is caused by a variety of factors. It’s a myth that singular problems, such as mental health issues, bullying, perfectionism, or grief, cause suicide. There are many of us that deal with these life stressors and we never consider suicide. So what is the difference between people who have life stressors, trauma, and other events that lead them down the path to suicide and those who do not consider taking their own lives? It’s a complex phenomenon called emotional pain. The various factors that drive someone toward suicidal thinking are facilitated by despair and, for children and teens, a lack of awareness about how to feel better. When a teen is thinking about suicide, they may not have the knowledge or the judgement to consider other options or resources, which is why making suicidal comments (“I should just die” or “I’m just going to kill myself”) is unfortunately a common way teens express their extreme frustration, sadness, disappointment, and despair. Risk factors for suicide are: · Multiple stressors that are overwhelming the student, and functioning is impaired · Social problems- peers, social media · Being in a high risk group where rejection can happen, such as being LGBTQI, traumatized (victims of abuse, neglect, bullying) · Having a mental health disorder · Severe self-pressure to perform. Sometimes this pressure is also administered in their environment (parents, teachers, coaches) · Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs) Warning signs for suicide are: · The youth talks about suicide or posts cryptic posts on social media (“I won’t be here next week, so no homework for me this week!”) · Stockpiling pills, trying to get access to a gun · Increased agitation, or a sudden shift in mood · Steep decline in social participation or other involvement (sports, activities) · Previous suicide attempt* · Self-harm behavior* * These two are of high concern for a future suicide attempt. What should you do if you’re concerned your child may be suicidal? Do not hesitate: ASK. Asking your child directly if they are having thoughts of suicide is the BEST first step. It is a myth that if we ask a child about suicidal thoughts they will begin thinking about suicide if they have not already done so. In fact, if they’ve been keeping this deadly secret, they will be filled with relief that you are there, ready to help and save them. People who are suicidal do NOT want to die, especially teens, they just don’t want to live with the pain and despair anymore. Second, if your child tells you they are having thoughts and they have a PLAN to kill themselves, take them to get immediate help at the local ER. Some mental health centers or Children’s Hospital also have a child psychiatric emergency option (resources at the end of the article). If your child is having thoughts, but really doesn’t want to die, they want to feel better but they don’t know how, make sure they have a safety plan with you, and get them into a mental health assessment as soon as possible. A safety plan is continuing to have an open and honest conversation about how the child is feeling on a daily basis, lovingly monitoring your child for increasing warning signs, providing them daily contact, support, encouragement, and rally support from the rest of the family. After the mental health assessment, a therapist will provide your child and family additional supports and coping mechanisms that you can all work on together. Resources Crisis lines: National Suicide Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (will triage to local) National Crisis Text Line: text 4Hope to 741741 (will triage to local) Hamilton County 513-281-CARE (2273) Hamilton County Psychiatric Emergency Services 513-584-8577 Websites: Suicide Prevention Resource Center The Trevor Project (LGBTQI) The Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation Companions on a Journey (Grief and Loss aftercare, suicide postvention) National Alliance on Mental Illness (support, education, and advocacy for mental health): Check for more resources in your local area. Below are a list of several in the Greater Cincinnati area. This list isn’t comprehensive, but provides you with places to begin your search. Mindpeace Mindpeace has carefully built (and updates) an interactive tool for parents to find local and specific treatment providers. You can find this resource at Cincinnati Children’s Psychiatric Intake Response Center: Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health

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