Sue Scheff: What are the warning signs of suicidal thoughts?

Teen suicide is a fear that some parents have lived with or have survived.  There can be nothing worse than  losing a child, however losing them to suicide can be devastating.  Being an educated parent can help you learn about warnings signs, even if they are hidden or silent.

Source:   Connect with Kids

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

“If your child is depressed or thinking about suicide, you have to remove the most dangerous means of doing that- and that's guns and certain kinds of medication.”

– Dr. Shannon Croft, M.D. Child Psychiatrist, Emory University School of Medicine

20-year-old Erin Salisbury suffers from depression and bipolar disorder. She has attempted suicide five times. Everytime she was saved by an adult.

"There have been many days I could have died," says Erin. "I'm very lucky... very lucky right now."

Experts say the first sign that a child may be suicidal is depression.

"So a child that's sad more days than not, that loses interest in their normal activities, that isolates themselves, whose outward behavior changes, who stops being able to function in school and with friends, those are some pretty obvious signs," says Dr. Shannon Croft, a child psychiatrist with the Emory University School of Medicine.

But, experts say, sadness isn't the only sign of suicidal thoughts.

"The majority of the time it only presents with anger and aggression," says adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Saaid Khojasteh with Washington University in St. Louis. "That by itself is a red flag."

Experts say other factors that put teens at risk are family history... and drug and alcohol use.

"If you suspect that your teenager is using alcohol or drugs," says Dr. Croft, "anything that effects somebody's ability to accurately think about themselves and their life and may change their mood- that's a real serious risk factor."

He says if you suspect your teen may be suicidal- remove all potential hazards- especially guns.

"This isn't a political comment," says Croft, "this is a very practical comment. If your child is depressed, is thinking about suicide, you have to remove the most dangerous means of doing that and that's guns and certain kinds of medication."

Erin is lucky to be alive. Her advice to other teens?

"Hold on for a few days, a week," she says. "See if it gets any better, and just talk to somebody about it and don't keep it all locked up."

Tips for Parents
  • A teenager who is contemplating suicide may complain of being a bad person or feeling "rotten inside." (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
  • Some teens will give verbal hints with statements such as "I won't be a problem for you much longer," "Nothing matters," "It's no use," and "I won't see you again." (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
  • A teen contemplating suicide may put his/her affairs in order by giving away favorite possessions, cleaning his/her room or throwing away important belongings. Others may become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression or show signs of psychosis. (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
  • If you believe your child may be thinking about suicide, ask the child directly or seek professional help. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. But asking a child if he/she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Such questions may assure the child that someone cares and will give him/her the chance to talk about problems. Talking can lead to healing. (Dr. Paul Schenk, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist)
  • If your child admits to suicidal feelings, don't act shocked. This will put distance between you. Be willing to listen. Allow for the expression of feelings. Accept those feelings. (American Association of Suicidology)
  • Don't be judgmental, debate whether suicide is right or wrong or lecture on the value of life. Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance. (American Association of Suicidology)
  • Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support. Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. (American Association of Suicidology)
■American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
■The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
■American Association of Suicidology

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