Suicide Prevention Through Young Adulthood

What is it?

  • Committing suicide (SUE-ih-side) is the act of killing yourself. A person who tries to kill himself has sadness and deep personal pain. Suicide is the point where a person cannot handle the pain that they feel. Suicide is their way of trying to end this pain. People often act differently before they try to commit suicide. It is important for you to watch for these warning signs in your child.

  • Often a person who has deep personal pain has a hard time talking about it. Your child may be ashamed or embarrassed, or may not want to bother friends or family with his problems. He may be in too much pain to talk about his problems. Suicidal thoughts may come from problems with friends, family, or school that are too hard to bear. They may come from your child's inner feelings about himself. Suicidal thoughts can also be caused by disorders like depression (deep sadness that lasts more than a few days). Get help from a therapist or counselor if your child is sad or depressed and is talking about committing suicide.

Who is at risk?

All children and young people are at risk. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people aged 15 to 24. It is the sixth leading cause of death in children aged 5 to 14.

What problems may cause my child to think about committing suicide?

Sad or depressed inner feelings may make young people feel lonely, out of control, and hopeless. Many young people feel their families do not listen or care when they say they are unhappy or frustrated. The young person may think he has no self-worth and that he is a failure. He may not be able to think clearly and may see suicide as a way to end his problems. The following problems may make your child feel pain and think of suicide.

  • School: This includes failing or bad grades. A child may feel pressure to perform or do well in school at a higher level than he feels he can do. Also, moving to a new school or new town or neighborhood may be tough for your child to handle.

  • Family:

    • This includes living in a family with parents who fight a lot or do not get along very well. This includes blending of the child's parent with a new stepparent and stepchildren. Another family problem may be a bad relationship (not getting along with) between the child and his parent or stepparent. The child may be constantly hit, beaten, yelled at, or hurt by a parent or other adult. The child may be ignored or told that he is not any good. The child may have a parent or other adult who is making him do sexual things. These are forms of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

    • The child may be more at risk of trying suicide if someone else in his family committed suicide. He is more likely to commit suicide if he has a family member with a disorder like depression. Also, if the child's parents use drugs or drink a lot of alcohol (liquor).

  • Friends/Romantic Relationships: This includes breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend or getting pregnant by accident. The child may fear gangs or have gang problems. The child may have lost important friends or is afraid of losing friends. The child may have problems because he is treated badly or violently by peers at school. The child may have difficult sexual feelings to deal with. For example, a child may have difficult feelings if he feels that he is homosexual or bisexual.

  • Loss: A child may feel loss caused by divorce or separation of parents. He may feel loss or guilt over the death of a friend or family member. He may also feel loss if his family loses the home or a job. These problems can cause a child to feel very insecure about his life. A child may feel guilty or bad for hurting or injuring someone else or for causing a death (like a car accident). A child may have problems handling a sickness or loss of his own health. He may have problems dealing with sickness or loss of health of a family member or friend.

  • Depression: Depression or other types of mental illness may be caused by problems in the brain. Depressed children are more likely to try suicide than children who are not depressed. Using drugs or drinking alcohol can cause depression, and it can make a child's problems feel much worse.

What are the warning signs?

Children usually show warning signs before trying suicide. Be alert. Watch and listen to your child. Look for these warning signs of suicide:

  • Your child tells you he wants to commit suicide.

  • Your child talks about his "plan" for committing suicide, or makes a will.

  • Your child starts giving or throwing away his favorite things.

  • Your child becomes suddenly very happy and cheerful after a time of depression and sadness.

  • Your child has tried committing suicide before.

  • Your child cuts himself, bangs his head against walls, or does other things to hurt himself.

  • Your child acts in reckless ways that are dangerous and could kill him. For example, he may drive very fast and reckless or "takes risks" doing things that could hurt him.

  • Your child says things to you that he would not normally say. Your child may say things like: "I won't see you again." He may say "Soon I won't be a problem for you," or "I have no reason for living". If your child talks about voices telling him to kill himself, this is a warning sign.

  • Your child is constantly sad and blue and he acts different than usual. Different things may be the way your child normally eats, sleeps, or dresses. Also gaining or losing weight or having a lower energy level than usual. Also if your child loses interest in doings the things he usually likes to do such as sports, hobbies, or seeing friends.

  • Your child begins to joke, read, or write often about suicide, killing, and death.

  • Your child is taking antidepressants (depression medicine) and his depression is getting worse. While on antidepressants, your child thinks about committing suicide or starts to behave (act) different than usual. For example, your child may begin to be more anxious, panicked (fearful), or angry. He may be more irritable, impulsive (acts without thinking), or cannot sleep and has too much energy (manic). Watch your child closely for these signs and symptoms especially as your child begins to take depression medicine. Watch your child closely whenever his dose (amount) of medicine is increased or decreased.

How can my child cope?

Find ways for your child to decrease the pain and increase ways to cope with (handle) the pain. Tell your child about these healthy ways to cope with sadness and pain:

  • Be with other people. Tell your child to spend time with family and friends. He should talk to them about the way he feels. He should join a club or do other after school activities.

  • Talk to people about your pain and sadness. Help your child understand that he can talk to you, another parent, or a close friend about his feelings. He can talk to a therapist, minister, rabbi, youth leader, or school counselor. Tell your child that these people want to know about what he is thinking and feeling.

  • Read and write. Tell your child to read books, poetry, or other written things that makes him feel good. He may keep a daily journal. Your child can write about things that he does, what he thinks about, and how he feels.

  • Eat good food and get plenty of sleep. Encourage your child to get enough sleep each night. Serve him healthy foods. Doing this will help your child's body and mind feel better.

  • Exercise regularly. Your child should go out and play sports. If he does not like sports, your child can take regular long walks or hikes. He may bicycle with a friend or go to the gym. Help your child to find some type of exercise that he can do regularly.

  • Do things that make you feel good. Tell your child that he should not allow others to do bad things to him. Your child may find personal peace by working on his spiritual life.

  • Make a list of goals. Your child may make goals for what he is going to do for the day, month, or rest of the year. Your child can make goals for his life. Encourage your child to start doing things to make his goals happen. He can celebrate by checking off his goals as he finishes them.

  • Volunteer to help others. Help your child find a group or organization that needs help. If you need help finding an organization, talk to a school counselor or church youth leader. Helping others may make both them and your child feel good.

How can I help if my child says he wants to commit suicide?

  • Let your child do the talking. Listen very carefully. Let your child know that you take his feelings and thoughts very seriously. Try to find out (focus on) what is causing his personal pain and sadness.

  • Ask direct questions. Do not be afraid to ask direct questions. Ask "Are you thinking of committing suicide?" or "Are you thinking of ending your life?" You may also ask questions like "Do you have a plan for hurting or killing yourself?" Also, "What would you use to kill yourself? Do you have that (the thing that your child would use to kill himself)?"

  • Stay with your child. Do not leave your child alone if he says he wants to commit suicide. By staying with him, you may be saving your child's life.

  • Get or call help immediately.

    • Call 1-800-SUICIDE. This phone number is open all the time to help people who are thinking about suicide. You may also called the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-999-9999.

    • Tell the caregiver about your child's thoughts and feelings of suicide. Ask for the name of a qualified person like a psychologist (si-KALL-o-jist), psychiatrist (si-KI-uh-trist), or counselor. Make an appointment with a therapist or counselor who can talk to your child about his problems and ways to cope. If your child is depressed or has another mental disorder, his therapist may give him special medicine. It is very important to take your child to a specially-trained caregiver if your child talks about committing suicide.

More helpful information for you and your child:

  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
    9001 E. Bloomington Fwy, Ste 150
    Bloomington , Minnesota 55420
    Phone: 1- 952 - 946-7998
    Web Address: http://www.save.org
  • Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program of Los Angeles
    24307 Magic Mountain Parkway #373
    Valencia , California 91355
    Phone: 1- 866 - 444-YRLA
    Web Address: http://www.yellowribbon.org
  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
    3615 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
    Washington , DC 20016
    Phone: 1- 202 - 966-7300
    Web Address: www.aacap.org

Care Agreement

You have the right to help prevent suicide in your child. To help with this plan, you must first learn about suicide prevention. You can then discuss suicide prevention with your child's caregiver if you have questions. You always have the right to refuse the instructions on this sheet.

Copyright © 2012. Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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