Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 15-24 in the United States, and is the second leading cause of death for this age group in South Dakota, second only to accidents. In 2015, there were 5,491 youth ages 15-24 that died by suicide in the United States. While these numbers may not seem large, even one death by suicide is too many.
Although youth suicide is relatively rare, thoughts of suicide are not. Data from South Dakota youth from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) indicate that 17.7% of high school youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, 14.6% made a plan for attempting suicide, and 8.6% had attempted suicide one or more times in the 12 month period before the survey.
It is important for parents to recognize changes in their child’s behavior that may indicate that something is wrong. It is not always easy to determine between the usual ups and downs of adolescent behavior and signs of something more serious. In addition, youth may be reluctant to discuss their feelings. One important step that parents can take is to be aware of the risk factors and warning signs that a child might be at risk for suicide. Warning signs include:
Fear of losing control
Resklessness; doing risky or dangerous things
Use of drugs or alcohol
Getting into fights or arguments
Talking or writing about death
Changes in eating behaviors
Changes in sleep
Withdrawal from friends or activities
“I won’t be around much longer.”
“Pretty soon you won’t have to worry about me.”
“It’ll all be over soon.”
“I wish I was dead.”
“Nothing matters anymore.”
Recess losses of any kind; relationship, financial, family
Life changes that seem overwhelming
Getting into legal trouble or trouble at school
Experiencing death of a friend or relative, especially by suicide
Risk Factors for suicide can include: mental health concerns such as mood disorders or depression, family history of suicide, previous suicide attempt, history of drug and alcohol use, isolation, impulsiveness or low self esteem.
Protective Factors include connections to family and to school, feelings of self worth, academic achievement, limited access to means, enhanced coping abilities or problem solving skills.
For Parents: Important Things to Remember
For an overview and guide on how to respond if your child is depressed or suicidal, including how to talk to him/her, questions to ask teachers and friends and what to do visit the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS) website.
Facts for Families: Children’s Threats – When Are They Serious?
For a guide on responding to children who are potentially suicidal, what to say, what threats should be taken seriously and what parents should do if they are concerned visit the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) website.
Protecting Your Child’s Mental Health: What Can Parents Do?
The Jed Foundation has compiled important tips for parents with children transitioning into or attending college in terms of understanding your child’s personality and the proper “fit” with the college, understanding the available mental health services and identifying your child’s personal, emotional, medical and other needs.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has new resource sheets that contain annotated lists of key suicide prevention organizations, websites and materials for parents (as well as teens and survivors of suicide loss). They can be found on their website at http://www.sprc.org/basics/roles-suicide-prevention