While this is not a topic that most parents would like to even think about, the statistics all around the world clearly indicate that suicide is a very real threat to the well-being of your teenager. The numbers continue to soar across the globe and while there is not everything that you can do, as a parent, you can certainly take strong steps to ensure that your children are safe and happy.
Suicide Risk Factors
– Although far from perfect predictors, certain characteristics are associated with increased odd of having suicidal thoughts. These include:
– Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse.
– Family stress/dysfunction.
– Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home.
– Situational crises (e.g., traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, family violence).
What can you do as a parent?
As a parent, you can teach and model healthy habits for mental health just as you would with physical health. Taking care of your own mental health, talking about it openly, and seeking therapy when warranted is one way to model healthy practices. If your child sees you approaching your own challenges and learning for your own mistakes in an open way, they will understand that it’s okay to struggle and to learn from mistakes. They may develop flexibility and compassion for their own missteps; even empathy for others, seeing how you navigate challenging times. They will also understand that life is messy and challenging for everyone at different times.
Check in with your child regularly, beyond just day-to-day tasks such as homework. You can learn how to invite deeper conversations through further guidance listed on this page. If your child has a history of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm or substance use, you should monitor them more closely, and consider involving a professional, either at key times, or for the longer term for more chronic conditions.