The teenage years are arguably the most challenging for teens and their parents alike.
While many teenagers have occasional mood swings and seem defiant, it’s easy to attribute this bad behavior to normal adolescent changes. Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of problems with teens, it can be easy to dismiss the warning signs of a more serious issue.
Depression is common amongst teenagers, and often goes undiagnosed and unmanaged. A recent survey from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggested 1 in 6 high school students has considered suicide and 1 in 12 has attempted it.
Being able to identify the warning signs that your teen is at risk can help you intervene early and seek help from experienced professionals.
Depressed or suicidal teens often have changes in behavior. In some cases it may be abrupt, while other times you may notice a more gradual change. Depressed teens who are contemplating suicide often begin to withdraw from friends, family, and even general activities. If your child previously enjoyed spending time with friends, or participating in activities (sports, social functions, etc.), and no longer wants to be involved this may be a sign of depression.
2. Persistently “Sick”
Your child may also develop symptoms of illness, more than typical for an adolescent. Common complaints of headaches, stomach pain, extreme tiredness, or the desire to sleep for several hours during the day should not be trivialized. Discuss these symptoms with your child’s pediatrician or family physician.
3. Academic Changes
It’s important to take declining academic performance as a warning sign of a deeper problem. Poor performance in a student who otherwise did well, combined with apathy regarding their performance is a hallmark sign that intervention is necessary.
4. Frequent Discussion of Death or Dying
Many teens contemplating suicide begin taking an interest in topics like death, the dying process, and other related issues. Often, they have researched topics through internet searches, or during conversations with friends. While you may feel uncomfortable monitoring your child’s internet search history, and this is a personal choice, you may be able to gauge what types of things he/she is interested in and review for anything alarming or out of the ordinary.
5. Substance Abuse
Teenagers often test their limits by indulging in dangerous behaviors. In many cases, alcohol and drug abuse can be a quintessential sign of teenage depression/ thoughts of self harm. If your child is making bad choices about drugs or alcohol, speak to them about the reasons behind their decision, rather than just penalizing them. Studies also suggest that prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse has risen amongst teens in the last few years. If this is a concern, his/her physician can also suggest treatment programs and support groups.
Raising teenagers can be hazardous so trust your instincts. If you need immediate assistance you can also call 1-800-273-TALK to speak with an experienced suicide counselor.