Reading the Warning Signs About Teen Suicide
According to a report issued by the Indiana State Department of Health, suicide among Hoosier teens, ages 15-19, has increased, placing it ahead of homicide and behind unintentional injury as a cause of death. Anyone who works with youth should be aware of the risk factors and warning signs, as well as the resources that are available to persons vulnerable to suicide or coping with the suicide of a friend or family member.
Suicide is often preventable if adults who interact with the youth are sensitive to early and late warning signs. Among the first indicators are symptoms of depression, such as :withdrawal from friends and family, preoccupation with death, personality and mood changes, difficulty with concentration, a decline in the quality of school work, changes in eating and sleeping habits, persistent boredom, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, and frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical conditions.
Late warning signs may be talking about suicide, behaving violently or rebelliously, refusing help, not tolerating praise or rewards, complaining about being a "bad" person, and giving away favorite possessions. If any of these red flags occur, the next steps are communication with the young person's peers to determine if they also have noticed any warning signs. Experts offer these suggestions for talking to any youth identified as "at-risk" of suicide. Should you encounter a suicidal teen, stay with the individual. Always ask direct questions and encourage the teen to express his/her feelings. Focus on the present, remain calm and contact a mental health professional.
Youths who take their lives are not the only victims. The deep grief felt by the family and friends is so difficult and many need the assurance that the death was not their fault. Many survivors find that the best help comes from attending a support group where persons share their stories and feelings without pressure or fear of judgment. If you should find yourself involved with a teen who has shown any of the warning signs, please check out the following agencies that might be of value to you.
Here are some state resources :
The Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition has a website www.indianasuicidepreventioncoalition.org and phone number, 260-481-4184
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, www.afsp.org and phone number, 212-363-3500
The Jason Foundation, www.jasonfoundation.com
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org and phone number, 1-800-273-8255
Helpguide , www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm.
For more information you may contact the National Mental Health America Office at 1-800-969-6642 or log onto www.nmha.org.