My wife recently met with the head of the guidance department of one of our local high schools to see what they were facing and how we could help. It was disturbing to learn that they perform 1-2 suicidal assessments each week. Either from a student coming forward for help or a friend telling the counselor in an attempt to help their friend who is struggling. Another area they are dealing heavily with is anxiety. One of the counselors mentioned that the biggest reoccurring issue they face is with students who are full of anxiety for their parents.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Americans ages 10 to 24, and an estimated one in 12 teens attempts to kill themselves. Four out of five teenagers who attempt suicide give clear warning signs beforehand, so it’s important to be alert for indications that your teenager might be contemplating suicide. For example:
- They talk about dying (“I just wish I were dead” or “Everyone would be better off if I just wasn’t here anymore”).
- They unexpectedly settle “debts,” returning borrowed items, repaying money, etc.
- They give away special items (“I wanted you to have this; it’s my favorite _________”).
- They experience a significant change in diet, weight, personal appearance, or sleeping habits.
- They lose interest in once-valued activities.
Depression is the leading cause of suicide, and with raging hormones and a slew of life changes, teenagers are especially vulnerable. Some young people experience a chemical imbalance that can be addressed with medication. Others benefit from therapy or support groups, whether in-person or online.
Because suicide is prevalent among 18- to 24-year-olds too, stay aware of this problem as your teenagers leave the nest. Schedule regular phone calls (or Skype and FaceTime “dates”) with your young adults who leave home. Also plan some visits to see them, including an occasional surprise. Privacy laws may prevent colleges from sharing details about students’ grades and attendance, but do what you can to be included in that information.
Remember to pray for your teenagers as they face life’s challenges, and keep the lines of communication open with them, too. Remind your kids that you’re always available to talk—or to find someone for them to talk to, if they’re struggling.