Tips for Thought

Suicide Prevention Tips for Teens and Young Adults

According to Dr. Christa D. Labouliere, Ph.D., suicide is the second highest-ranking cause of death for many young people. While suicide affects people of all ages, the rates may vary by race, age, and other socioeconomic factors.

Some Suicide Facts To Understand:

Suicide is a serious public health concern because it can affect a person’s family and community. In addition to suicide, many people may attempt to take their own lives before they finally succeed. This instance is especially worrying because a suicide attempt can permanently harm a person physically and emotionally.

A suicide attempt is when a person deliberately harms themselves, intending to end their life. However, many do not die as a result of their actions. When a person does succeed in killing themselves, it can lead to various issues due to its ripple effect.

Suicide is also serious because it’s a permanent solution to a person’s temporary problems. In 2021, at least 48,183 deaths resulted from suicide, making it a severe public health concern. While suicide is preventable, it requires a nationwide effort to ensure that the numbers reduce drastically.

Some Tell-Tale Signs Of a Suicidal Person:

Do you know someone who may be at risk? At first glance, it may be challenging to figure out if someone is suicidal, but learning a few warning signs is a start. Once a person becomes more aware of the tell-tale signs, we can move next with intervention and help the person find the support they need.

Some tell-tale signs of a suicidal person include the following:

1. Talking about ending their life.

Has your friend or family member ever mentioned ending their life in a conversation? While some statements like, “Everyone would be better off if I were dead” and “I should just kill myself,” other indirect comments exist. Teens, for example, may mask their depression through self-deprecating jokes and humor in person or over the internet. Children and the like may also express it through drawings and “acting out” through violent behavior.

2. The person has a history of previous attempts. No one should ever ignore this red flag. If a person has attempted suicide in the past, they are likelier to attempt again. Be observant of any friends and family members who have tried before.

3. Self-harming behaviors. Individuals who engage in self-harm activities may indirectly express how they feel their life is meaningless and has no value. Some self-harming habits to watch out for include cutting themselves, burning their skin with cigarettes, starving themselves, or developing drug and alcohol dependence. Friends and family should note other risky behaviors like driving under the influence and promiscuity.

4. Sudden withdrawal. Parents, teachers, and friends may notice the person suddenly isolating themselves or withdrawing from the world. When this happens, it may indicate that the person is depressed. Seek immediate help at once.

5. Suicide notes. Another proof that a person is suicidal is when they’re making final arrangements to “say goodbye.” If you ever catch your loved one writing a suicide note or letter, always take it seriously and call for immediate help.

6. Sudden calmness after a breakdown. In some cases, many people often don’t realize a person is about to end their life before it’s too late. While depression and withdrawal are red flags, sudden changes in mood and temperament can also be another warning sign.

For instance, a person suddenly appears calm and happy after a crisis may signify that they’re ready to carry out their plan. This sign is often challenging to pinpoint because a person suddenly feeling better often looks like they will finally make a change. Other times, it may be a final goodbye before they leave permanently.

What Can I Do To Help My Suicidal Loved One?

It’s hard to see your loved one go through a dark period. It’s tough if you’re feeling helpless and want to stop your loved one from harming themselves further.

While it’s tempting to respond emotionally to their despair, sometimes it helps to act as the pillar in your relationship. Here are tips on what you can do to help your suicidal loved one:

1. Tune in to their cues.

If you notice your loved ones withdrawing themselves or being more depressed than usual, try to engage in conversation calmly and gently. You can start with statements like, “Hey, you seem sad lately. I’m here if you want to talk.”

Sometimes, we need to take the first step in establishing communication because people who are depressed may feel ashamed of their condition or problem.

2. Listen, even if they’re not talking.

Sometimes a person doesn’t need to talk. If they respond that “they’re fine” or they make up an excuse, you can offer statements like, “Okay, but I’ll stay by you if you need anything. We don’t have to talk now, but I hope we can talk later.” This statement gives the impression that you’re not pressing the issue but still care.

However, if they do talk, focus on listening immediately. You don’t need to give advice immediately because sometimes, a person needs to vent. Maintain eye contact and be patient, especially if they’re struggling.

3. Avoid dismissing certain statements.

If you’re a parent or teacher, dismissing a young person’s concerns is easy. Suppose you’re assuming that a person is upset over trivial matters and dismissing them without listening to what they say. In that case, it can devastate your relationship and communication.

If a child or teen says red-flag statements like, “I want to die” or “I don’t even care anymore. Everyone’s lives would be better without me!” and you respond with, “Don’t be so dramatic.” In a worst-case scenario, it can seriously hinder their trust in you, and they might find other destructive ways to cope.

4. Respond with empathy and understanding.

You may respond emotionally, like shock, hurt, or anger, if you catch your loved ones harming themselves. While it’s understandable to react that way, focusing on the person’s needs first and foremost is essential. If your loved one is reaching out to you, create a safe space of empathy and understanding. You can try using some statements like:

  • “It sounds like you’ve been struggling for a while.”
  • “You must be hurting inside, and it feels hard to find hope.”
  • “Right now, you’re not sure how you can solve the problems you’re facing.”

Avoid making the issue about you and your feelings. Focus on them and encourage them to share even if you can’t relate or understand.

5. Remove and secure guns and other weapons or reduce their access.

If you live where access to firearms and other weapons is readily available, consider limiting your loved one’s access to them immediately. Some weapons you must keep away from your loved ones include:

  • Firearms
  • Alchol
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Household cleaners.
  • Ropes, belts; plastic bags;
  • Knives; razors; sharp weapons;
  • Inhalants;
  • Canned dusting products; and
  • Antifreeze

6. Encourage them to see loved ones.

Isolation can be addicting and harmful, especially to a suicidal person. Many people often attempt suicide because they feel they are not loved or wanted. Suggest to your loved ones that they see other family members and friends. You also don’t have to force them to go if they don’t want to, but always extend an invitation so they feel accepted regardless.

7. Suggest therapy.

Suppose your loved one is suffering from trauma or mental illness. In that case, you may suggest they see a mental health professional. Many psychologists and psychiatrists offer scientific-based treatment that helps your loved ones cope, whether it’s through therapy, antidepressants, and handy coping strategies.

8. Call for help immediately.

If your loved one is seriously distressed and in a very dark place, they may be tempted to harm themselves, leading to their death. If this happens, call for help immediately and keep talking to your loved one. Please do not leave them alone under any circumstances until help has arrived.

Takeaway: Suicide is a global issue that needs to be tackled with sensitivity and care. While we can do our best to help our loved ones, we must also understand that encouraging them to see mental health experts can improve their lives. When we take the time to learn the warning signs of suicide, we can help reduce the numbers and keep our loved ones safe.