How to Prevent Suicide in Adolescents
Suicide in adolescents always leaves a bitter taste that goes far beyond the physical loss of a person. It’s about all those questions about what we could have done to intervene in time, foresee the problem, or prevent the delicate situation.
It happens that, in most cases, a person who’s thinking about suicide will leave signs. Sometimes these aren’t very explicit, are latent, but are signs nonetheless. So, let’s see what signs in the environment we can pay attention to in order to offer help to the young person who needs it.
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About adolescent suicide
If we reflect in terms of figures, the data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) are alarming: Suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents and young people between 10 and 24 years of age.
Some of the most frequent risk factors for this outcome are the following:
- Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity
- Bullying at school
- A history of having been a victim of sexual abuse or any other traumatic experience
- Family violence
We must begin to look at suicide as part of a person’s daily reality and not only as an outcome associated with a mental illness.
Warning signs of suicide or suicidal intent
A person who’s planning to commit suicide usually gives some previous signs. Identifying them allows us to approach them and take action in time to provide the help they need.
Some of the indicators of suicide risk are the following:
- Constant negative ideas and pessimistic thinking
- Feelings of permanent uselessness and the belief that there’s no point in continuing to live, that their absence will go unnoticed
- Changes in habits
- Alterations in mood and behavior
- Difficulties when trying to fall asleep and carry out activities
- Demotivation, listlessness
- Recurrent interest and questions about death. Reference to oneself as if he/she would soon cease to exist.
- Detachment from belongings
How to prevent suicide in adolescents
Next, we’re going to bring you some recommendations to help prevent suicide in adolescence. Therefore, if you have children of this age, don’t hesitate to incorporate these habits into your daily life and always leave space for dialogue.
Talk to your sons and daughters
Reach out to them, ask them about their activities, and show interest in their lives.
You may not find anything at first, but over time, and with the emergence of trust, you’ll get to know if someone’s uncomfortable about something or is going through a difficult situation.
Get to know their peer group
It’s a good idea to get to know your children’s peer group, how they get along with them, and if they have any conflicts with anyone in particular. This allows you to anticipate the facts and know in time if something bad is happening.
It’s also an important fact if your child doesn’t have friends. Keep in mind that, in adolescence, acceptance by the environment is usually very important.
Don’t assume that everything’s going well
Even if your children have excellent grades or lots of friends, everyone deals with their suffering as best they can and under different guises.
Don’t underestimate the signs based on the belief that you know your child. Many times, some day-to-day details may slip out because of their autonomy and embarrassment about what happens to them and their parents.
It’s important to create a family atmosphere where everyone can express their emotions. It’s best to be there, close by, all the time.
Accept their moods and don’t invalidate their thoughts
When discussing the topic of suicide with your children, avoid reacting negatively. On the contrary, try to act with understanding and empathy, because this is a circumstance in which someone is suffering.
It’s very common that when a child says“my life has no meaning, nothing is worthwhile”, the first reaction of parents is“you’re so ungrateful, I give you everything you ask for”. This isn’t the point of adolescent discouragement and is actually much more complex than it seems.
Encourage them to take part in different activities
Motivate your kids to get out of the house and find something that makes them feel good and gives them purpose.
Reinforce their self-esteem
Recognize your children’s achievements, encourage their progress, and help them understand that people sometimes feel bad, but that we can seek multiple resources to get ahead.
Don’t hesitate to consult a professional if you don’t know how to help
It’s better to activate resources early to assess the seriousness of the situation than to let it get out of hand. It’s important to avoid confusing an “adolescent drama” with a more complex problem that implies a risk of suicide. And for that, the help of a professional may be the most appropriate option.
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Making the reality of suicide in adolescents visible is helping
Many times, parents refuse to address such a difficult reality as suicide with their children for different reasons. However, this doesn’t imply that suicides stop happening and, on the contrary, the figures show us that the trend is increasing.
In addition to individual efforts, it’s also important to get involved as a society in the prevention of adolescent suicide in any field. How can we help? Sometimes, a simple gesture of empathy or providing a space to talk when necessary is enough.
There are small daily acts that, together with the appropriate public policies, allow us to offer a comprehensive and community approach to a phenomenon that impacts us all. Are you ready to be part of the change?It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Belloch, A., Sandín, B. y Ramos, F. (2004). Manual de psicopatología. Volumen 2. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
- Hernández Jiménez, A., & Rodríguez-Peralta, M. de L. (2021). El riesgo de suicidio en el adolescente, ¿se puede evitar con la formación integral?. Ciencia Latina Revista Científica Multidisciplinar, 5(5), 9181-9200. https://doi.org/10.37811/cl_rcm.v5i5.981