Yesterday I learned that a boy who graduated with my daughter this past May, committed suicide the night before. I knew the young man. He had been in my home. He was quiet and reserved, a brilliant 4.0 student in excellent physical condition who loved the outdoors. His friends are devastated, wondering what they could have done to help, to make a difference, to keep their friend alive.
Thousands of teenagers commit suicide each year in the U.S. Teen suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in adolescents. For every teen suicide there are 25 suicide attempts. Although teen girls are more likely to attempt suicide, boys are four times more likely to die from suicide. What are risk factors? The top five are aggressive behavior, disruptive behavior, substance abuse, depression, and access to firearms (http://www.teensuicide.us/).
What should we look for to figure out if teens needs help? Common things are disinterest in favorite activities, loss of interest in work or school, withdrawal from family and friends, changes in sleep or eating habits, risk taking behaviors, complains more frequently of boredom, or doesn’t respond to praise like they used to. Signs of a suicide plan are things like saying “I wish I could die” or “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I won’t bother you anymore.” If they start giving away or getting rid of possessions, write a suicide note, or are suddenly cheerful after being depressed, get professional help immediately.
One of the most important interventions is support. Let teens know you care about them, that you are watching out for them, that you are someone they can talk to. Help teens who are struggling and their parents seek professional help. Show them where to go for help. Some national resources are YellowRibbon.org, www.teensuicide.us, and the suicide hotline 1-800-SUICIDE.
Today I’m checking on my daughter and her friends, telling them I’m here and I’m praying for them.
Take notice, reach out, and intervene with teens around you. It could save a life.