It is a tragedy when a teenager takes his or her own life…especially since suicide is preventable
Ever so often, we come across news of a young person who taken their life over something that may seem trivial to many adults. However, what seems trivial to you may mean the world to that young person. Many teens may feel suicidal but there are certain factors that place some of them at a higher risk of actually going through with it.
There is a large possibility that mental health issues interfere with how a teen deals with the stresses of common teenage life. Problems such family turmoil, failing a subject at school, or a romantic breakup could affect a teen with mental health issues more than one who is stable mentally and emotionally.
Additionally, it may also hinder the teen from seeing past their issues so they start to think that suicide is the only way out of a problem that is temporary. Here are some important points to note about teen suicide and what to do about teens who are at risk.
#1 Teens at risk
Teens who suffer from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or even insomnia could suffer from suicidal thoughts. This is especially true for teens who remain undiagnosed. In addition to this, teens who are undergoing major life changes such as their parents’ divorce, moving to another state or city, financial problems and those who are being bullied are can also be highly susceptible to suicidal tendencies.
Teens who have a family history of depression or suicide and/or suffer from emotional, physical or sexual abuse are also at high risk. They may not have a good support system, or may have poor relationships with their parents or peers and feel socially isolated. This group of teens could also be abusing drugs and alcohol which changes the state of a person’s mind. As a result, they may become fixated on the idea of committing suicide.
#2 Red Flags
Usually, teen suicide happens after something very stressful such as a breakup with their boyfriend or girlfriend, or the death of a loved one occurs. Signs of a suicidal teen include talking about suicide or death, talking about the future where they’re ‘not around’, isolating themselves from friends and family, giving away their treasured possessions to their family and friends, engaging in risky behaviour and losing interest in school or sports.
It is important to know of these warning signs so loved ones can step in an prevent a tragedy. Parents need to realise that teens who talk about hurting themselves or suicide are not just looking for attention. A teen talking about hurting themselves or suicide may be asking for help and ignoring their pleas may increase the chances of them hurting themselves.
#3 Eyes and ears
Keep your eyes and ears open especially if you know of a teen who is depressed or withdrawn. Depression can present very differently in teens compared to adults. They may be depressed over problems with their friends or grades instead of chronic sadness or crying that’s usually associated to depression.
Communication is key and if you’re a parent of a teen, it’s important to let your child know that you’re always available to talk about anything. Ensure that your teen knows how much you care for him or her and that you will always support them no matter what they do. If your teen isn’t comfortable talking with you, suggest that they talk to a neutral party such as a relative, a religious leader or even a counsellor.
If you know of a friend who may be suicidal, talk to them and lend a shoulder for them to cry on, if needed. Tell them you care and that your friend isn’t alone. Encourage your friend to attend social events so they don’t feel isolated.
As for the home front, encourage your teen to have a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and plenty of regular exercise. There may be a lot of reluctance in the beginning but start small such as getting rid of junk food in the house and introducing more fruits and vegetables into their diet. As for exercise, it doesn’t need to be a sweaty affair but a relaxing walk in the park. Take this as an opportunity to talk to them about their day or about anything that’s on their mind.
#4: Help is around the corner
If you know of a suicidal teen, get professional help. Call a crisis line for advice and encourage the suicidal teen to see a mental health professional. If medication is prescribed, ensure that your friend or loved done takes it, as directed by the doctor. Keep an eye out for any possible side effects and notify the doctor if the teen seems to be getting worse. It may take a little time when it comes to finding medication or therapy that works.
If you’re living with a suicidal teen or are close to their parents, take initiative and remove any potential means of suicide such as pills, knives, razors or firearms. To minimise the risk of suicide by overdosing on medication, keep medicines locked away and give them out only when the person needs it.
Continually support your teen, even after a suicidal crisis has been declared over. Stay in touch with your friend or loved one and drop by now and then to check on them. This support is important to ensure that the teen stays firmly on the road to recovery.
Call for Help
If you need someone to talk to but feel a little self-conscious, try contacting:
LifeLine Association Malaysia, 03-42657995, Monday to Friday 7pm to 10 pm; Saturday 2pm to 5pm
Klinik Kaunseling Komuniti, 03-89468118, Monday to Friday (office hours)
Buddhist Gem Fellowship Counselling Unit, 03-79548750/8753, Monday to Thursday 7pm to 9.30pm
Than Hsiang Mitra Welfare Association KL, 03-78653782, Sunday to Friday 8pm to 10pm