What Parents Can Do About Teen Suicide
Robert R. Cassman, MA
Last week we looked at the problem of teen suicide. This week we’re looking at some of those steps parents can do. These suggestions are not exhaustive but are a good start.
- Listen to your teen. Poor communication is common in suicide families. Talk with your teen each and every day. Have a family meal and discuss how your teen’s day has been. Teens are often closed to communication that happens infrequently but are more comfortable talking with their parents if it happens on a regular basis.
- Take threats seriously. Teens say things all the time that they don’t mean, but when talking about suicide it is better to take them at their word.
- Remind teens that bad times won’t last forever (without minimizing.) If you are 40 then maybe you have been through the ups and downs of life. But if you are 13 maybe you have not. So the first true “down” may seem worse than what it really is. Remind the teen that we all have “ups AND downs.” At the same time, do NOT minimize or trivialize your teen’s concerns. Be aware of adjectives you use when referring to your teens “silly” problems.
- Exercise. People who are in shape and who exercise are less likely to suffer from depression. A healthy body includes a healthy mind!
- Help your teen acknowledge how hard he or she has been on himself or herself. Teens are notorious for being their harshest critic. Setback such as getting a “C” on a test, a pimple appearing, or canceled plans can lead to catastrophes with a teen. Help him or her see that they would not treat their friends the same way they often treat themselves.
- Keep weapons safe. If you have guns in the home, please keep them secure from your depressed teen.
- Seek professional help. Do not hesitate to set an appointment with a therapist and or a psychiatrist. You don’t have to be “so bad” to come to a therapist. In fact, the sooner treatment is started the better.
- Remind your teen treatment takes a while. Finally, once your teen is seeing a therapist, remind him that “getting better” takes time. One or two appointments with a therapist is not a reasonable expectation to conquer their issues or mindset.