If your teen tells you he or she has been experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, or if you think your teen may be feeling suicidal but is not telling you, get help immediately. Do not call your teen’s bluff- take all mentions and threats of suicide seriously. There are many mental health professionals trained to deal with suicidal feelings and suicide specifically in teens, and many pediatricians or family physicians can refer parents to specialists if there is an urgent need for your teen to be treated. Another resource is your local emergency room. If your teen is suicidal, do not leave him or her alone, and do not wait for an appointment to see a doctor or specialist- take your teen immediately to the closest ER, where a psychological evaluation can be performed without an appointment. This can literally be the difference between your teen’s life and death.
Some less obvious signs that your teen may be contemplating suicide include depression, withdrawal from daily activities your teen once enjoyed, dramatic personality shifts, drug or alcohol use, lack of attention to personal hygiene, violent behavior or outbursts, running away, decline in school attendance and grades, and change in sleeping patterns. Also, if your teen has already attempted suicide once before, they may be more likely to try again if adequate treatment was not received following the first attempt.
Other behaviors may include: giving away important personal belongings, statements by your teen that he or she is a “bad person” or that he or she “won’t be a problem for much longer”, or any signs of psychosis, which can include hallucinations or bizarre thoughts. According to NIMH, often times many of these warning signs go without notice by family and friends until it is too late. Further complicating matters, just because your teen is exhibiting any of these signs does not mean he or she is suicidal. This is why it is crucial to keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your teen. There is no better way to predict or decipher suicidal feelings than to simply ask your teen how he or she is feeling.