September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All across the US, there are education programs, mental health advocates, suicide attempt survivors and those who’ve endured a personal touch from the harsh reality that is suicide bringing to light the risks and signs of suicidal thinking.
With an average of over 120 suicides per day in the US and almost 700 suicides in Utah each year, most likely you know someone who has been affected. It’s not the most comforting suicide statistics in Utah, but more current evaluations are showing promise of better days ahead.
Suicidal behavior isn't actually its own mental illness
Suicidal behavior isn’t actually its own mental illness, but rather a serious, and potentially lethal symptom of other mental disorders. Combining any one of the following mental health conditions can create the conditions for self-harm. If your loved one has experienced the following, they may be more susceptible to suicidal expression:
- bouts of major (prolonged) depression
- bipolar disorder
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder)
- any kind of borderline personality disorder
- substance use or abuse or
- eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia
When searching for signs of suicidal thoughts there are a few things to consider.
- People who have experienced the loss of a friend, acquaintance, or celebrity idol are more likely to attempt suicide themselves. Often these “copy-cat” suicides feel like they have received confirmation that suicide is an acceptable way to find release from their pain and overwhelming, and seemingly unending stress.
- In the rough waters that are teenage life, we can often mistake severe behavior changes as common and stereotypical behavior from our teens. With changing social cliques, hormonal and growth spurts, our fickle children can flip flop on desires, activity interests, and friend groups quite quickly. Severe mood swings and episodes of either manic or depressive states that are out of character may need a qualified analysis. Lifeline For Youth offers a free consultation when you have questions and need answers.
- As our daily life keeps accelerating we often miss the opportunities to slow down and connect with our children. We become quickly unaware of the pressures in their lives, the social strains of trying to fit in with their peers and the quickly emotional alliances and gulfs that can result when searching for values they feel define their evolving personalities
- Often one of the best tools to prevent or deter depression or hopelessness that leads to suicide is creating a bridge of communication– a safe place to speak without fear of judgment or criticism. Being able to open up and share can release a pressure valve of emotions that can push toward bad decisions and seclusion.
- This brings us to the next consideration- social isolation. Because humans are naturally social creatures, any time a person drastically pulls away from their common social circles our minds should start becoming alert. Social anxiety is not the same as depression, but both operate in common arenas. Depression will often result when a person feels a loss of hope for an extended period of time. Social anxiety stems from worries that occur in any variety of social situations.
- Along with social isolation comes withdrawal from activities that once held interest and were a source of joy. When dealing with an abundance of pain the mind becomes bored with prior interests. It becomes laborious to expend energy on things that seem to give less and less return for the effort.
- Another of the often mistaken clues to depression and suicidal leanings can be that of personal hygiene. What we may think of a “grunge fad” or “bed head” styles that are so common these days, may actually be a strong indicator of mental decline. Often when children and teens are struggling to cope with their mental states they lose a good degree of personal care. Cleanliness, odors and mismanaged hair and clothing can indicate they are in survival mode. The amount of energy it takes to care about socially acceptable appearance can fade quickly, resulting in less than pleasant personal presentation.
“Tying up loose ends” or making plans is another often missed cue. The more our children are let to themselves the less we are involved in their private discussions and happenings. When a child starts re-homing possessions and items that they value or things they feel they won’t be needing it is advisable to start taking action.
How do I know it isn't just teenage drama?
In reality, you don’t. Often when teens feel misunderstood, perceived that they or their values are being disrespected they will lash out. Sometimes the threats of “committing suicide” or “killing myself” are ploys used to manipulate a situation. Because the result of teen suicide is something quite permanent there isn’t any room to make a mistake.
When a child or teen outright threatens to kill themselves it should be taken seriously and medical attention should be sought- even when you are “positive” they are just taking things out of context. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. For any medical emergency, 911 is still the best option.
It may take some “official” interaction to help your child realize that empty threats don’t only take up other’s time but hurt the people who reach out with serious needs. Any time you need to consult a professional and it isn’t an emergency situation we welcome you to reach out to Lifeline For Youth at 1-855-968-8443. With our trained professional staff, we can start finding solutions to fit your family’s needs.
The upside to the most recent suicide statistics is that the trends are starting to change. Mental health counseling is treating the precursory factors that contribute to suicidal thinking. By incorporating a well-rounded approach with the professionals at Lifeline For Youth, we can identify the sources of pain and unrest in your child and equip them with tools to handle life. We educate the family and loved ones on how to create a nurturing environment that builds open lines of communication.
If you need guidance or recognize any of these traits in your child or teen, please don’t hesitate to call any of the numbers listed above. For your free consultation call 1-855-968-8443 today.