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Understanding Teen Suicidal Thoughts: How Can You Help?

Teen Suicidal Thoughts: Understanding How You Can Help

It might be hard to imagine your teen having suicidal thoughts, but this is a surprisingly common problem among teenagers and young adults.

Understanding suicidal thoughts can be difficult if it isn’t something that you have experience with yourself, but taking the right steps is very important.

The first step is to understand what your teen is going through and why. This guide can help you understand suicidal thoughts in adolescents and young adults a little better.

 

Understand the Causes of Teen Suicidal Thoughts

Right now, you might be at a loss as to why your teen might be having suicidal thoughts. You might feel as if your teen is a happy and normal teenager with a pretty good life. It might be difficult to understand how someone so young can be having these types of thoughts.

However, be aware that suicidal thoughts can impact people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Many teens have suicidal thoughts because of stress, anxiety, social issues, pressure from school and more. Those who are victims of abuse, who don’t have a strong support system or who abuse drugs or alcohol can also be more prone to suicide ideation.

If your teenager has been struggling with suicidal thoughts, looking for the cause of these feelings can be a good place to start.

Then, you can help your teen make changes in his or her life that might help put an end to these thoughts. Be aware that you might not be in a position to determine where the thoughts and ideation are coming from and that consulting with a mental health professional might be necessary.

 

Learn About the Warning Signs

In some cases, teenagers who are having suicidal thoughts talk to their parents or other trusted adults about the situation. This is not always the case, though.

There are warning signs that you can watch out for, though. Listening to your child’s words is a good place to start. Many teens who are depressed or thinking about suicide claim that they wish they were dead or that they wish they were never born. Some tell their parents that they want to kill themselves.

If your child makes statements like these, it is critical to seek help immediately.

Naturally, there are a lot of less obvious signs for you to watch out for as well. If your young adult is expressing feelings of hopelessness, it is a cause for concern.

Many teens who have suicidal thoughts isolate themselves from their friends and family members; if you notice this in your teen, particularly if he or she is typically a lot more social, it’s important to take action.

Teens who are thinking about suicide might become self-destructive or participate in risky behaviors. They may have extreme mood swings, or they might seem to have an obsession with death.

Those who are thinking about going through with the suicidal thoughts that they have been having may begin looking for tools to commit suicide, such as prescription medication in large quantities or a gun and ammunition.

Of course, what is out of character for one teen might not be out of character for another. As a parent, you should keep your teen’s regular behaviors in mind and pay attention if there are any major changes.

Major changes in behavior can be a sign of suicidal ideation or could point to other issues like anxiety or depression.

 

Take it Seriously

Some parents make the mistake of not taking their child seriously when they talk about suicide. Some notice red flags but assume that suicide is not something that their child is seriously thinking about.

It can be very difficult to think about the idea of your teenager wanting to commit suicide.

Despite how difficult or hurtful it might be, though, it is important to take your teenager seriously when he or she shows signs of suicide ideation. When in doubt, contact a professional.

It is better to take action and seek help when it’s not necessary than to ignore the warning signs or dismiss the problem only for something bad to happen.

 

Be Supportive

One of the best ways that you can help a teen who is having suicidal thoughts is by being supportive. Teens who have a solid support system may be less likely to have suicidal thoughts or might be less likely to follow through on any thoughts that they might be having.

Letting your teen know that you are there to talk whenever he or she needs it is a start. When your teen talks to you about suicidal ideation or other difficult topics, make sure that you don’t minimize the problem or change the subject, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

Some parents believe that talking about suicide with their teen might put the idea in their heads, but this is untrue; discussing suicide with a non-suicidal teenager is not going to make them suicidal. Discussing it with a teen who has thought about suicide, however, can literally save their life.

 

Know When to Seek Outside Help

You might wish that you could help your teen with all of his or her problems, but it’s important to know when to seek outside help. If your teen is having serious thoughts about suicide, seeking mental health treatment might be the best course of action.

A professional can talk to your teen about the suicidal thoughts and about any other mental health issues that he or she might be having. He or she can help your family choose the right treatment option.

In some cases, inpatient treatment is the safest and best course of action; this is typically the case when a teen is a danger to himself or herself or to others. Medication and counseling are other options that can be explored. Make sure that you find a mental health facility with experience in treating teens for best results.

If your teenager has told you that he or she has suicidal thoughts or if you have noticed any warning signs, it’s important to take the situation seriously. Teen suicide is a bigger problem than many people realize, and it often starts with suicide ideation.

By taking the matter seriously and taking the appropriate steps, you can be there for your child and could even potentially save his or her life.

Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.

Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.

Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.

In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.

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