Webinar: What parents should know about teen suicide

Teen suicide
Photo credit: EmSlichter

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States for individuals between the  ages of 15-24, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Approximately 3% of adolescents engage in medically serious suicide attempts. These suicide attempts often predate serious, overlooked, or untreated mental illnesses.

This article will provide brief facts about teen suicide and include a 30min webinar for parents and teachers.

Some families have a very difficult time understanding why a teen would consider suicide and how they would complete it. When I meet with parents who are concerned that their teen may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, I encourage them to “safe-proof” their home and to have a frank conversation with the teen about their concerns. Parents are often uninformed about ways teens may attempt to kill themselves. As a result, my job in therapy sessions has been to help parents and families make a list of ways their teen might attempt suicide. This allows the parent to ask me questions, the teen to open up about their thoughts, and me to foster open communication. Some common examples of teen suicide attempts include but are not limited to:

  • Jumping in front of traffic
  • Snorting household items or cleaning supplies
  • Using guns or other weapons (i.e., hunting knives, rifles, shot-guns)
  • Overdosing on medication (i.e., over the counter medications, prescription medication)
  • Mixing drugs with alcohol
  • Jumping off of things
  • Reckless driving

The most common occurring mental illnesses among adolescents who attempt suicide include:

  • Mood disorders: Major Depressive Disorder or bipolar Disorder (previous termed manic depression)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder or another personality disorder
  • Severe and untreated anxiety,
  • Severe or untreated mental illness which may include psychosis or delusions, and
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

How serious is teen suicide?

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center (2012), the approximate number of Americans over 18 with severe bipolar disorder is 5.1   million (2.2% of the population). In some cases, bipolar disorder begins in adolescents and many parents and teachers begin seeing warning signs around age 14. In cases involving untreated mental illness, annual suicides by Americans with severe mental illness include a total of 6,000 lives.

Sadly, young males are more likely to commit suicide than young females, often because they utilize more aggressive means to commit suicide such as guns or other similar weapons. Females tend to attempt suicide by overdosing.

Suicide among the adolescent population is a serious concern for mental health professionals and society at large. It is important that parents, families, teachers, and other adults within the community understand the prevalence of teen suicidal behaviors so that a greater understanding how to help our youths may be achieved.

Webinar for parents & teachers

If you are looking for tips or concrete and practical information on this topic, feel free to tune into my most recent webinar on teen suicide by clicking below:

You can also read my previous article contribution about adolescent suicide from PsychAlive.com.