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What Parents Need to Know About Suicide Prevention

The period of adolescence is a time of change, both physically and mentally. Thus, possibly due to all of these changes, adolescents are reporting stress patterns that are similar to that of adults (Bethune, 2014). In fact, during the school year, adolescents report stress levels that are higher than that of adults. As a result of the stress, many teens are reporting feeling depressed. And in turn, depression is a potential risk factor for suicide.

According to one article by Kaslow and her colleagues (2013), “about 12 youth die by suicide” every day. So, how do parents recognize the warning signs or risk factors for suicide? And how do parents help their teens handle stress and therefore, reduce their chances of engaging in suicidal behavior?

Kaslow and her colleagues (2013) suggest that parents consider these 7 steps:

1. Know your facts

Parents should gain as much reputable information on suicide as they can. There is misinformation on suicide that may be going around, which in turn, can result in tragic consequences. For example, one may think that suicide is not a problem in adolescents, as they are “not old enough” to experience extreme levels of stress or to even think about suicide. This is not the case, as suicide is the “3rd leading cause of death among 10-24 year-olds.”

Also, as parents, know that you can recognize the warning signs and intervene- A professional is not the only one who can do this.

2. Recognize the warning signs.

Studies show that the majority of teen suicide attempts are preceded by warning signs. This does not mean that your child will attempt suicide, but it does mean that you should respond to your teen immediately and with empathy/concern.

According to an article by Stanford Children’s Health, these are some warning signs of suicidal behavior:

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits

  • Withdrawal from friends or family

  • Unexplained or unusually violent behavior

  • Sexual promiscuity, truancy, and vandalism

  • Drastic personality changes (sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, for instance)

  • Talking or writing about suicide

  • Giving away prized possessions

  • Doing worse in school

3.Know the risk factors

As a parent, you should know that there are certain situations and conditions that are related to more of a risk for suicide. For example, previous suicide attempts and mental health disorders (such as depression and anxiety) are related to a higher risk for suicide. In addition, parents should know that the following are also related to a higher risk of suicide:

  • Alcohol and substance abuse

  • Feelings of hopelessness/guilt/loneliness/worthlessness/low self-esteem

  • Loss of interest in friends or activities that were previously enjoyed

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Bullying or being a bully

  • Disruptive behavior

  • High-risk behaviors (drinking and driving)

  • Recent or serious loss such as a death or divorce in the family

  • Family history of suicide

  • Family violence (child abuse, neglect, domestic violence)

  • Sexual orientation and identity confusion,

  • Access to lethal meals (such as gun or pills)

  • Stigma that is related to asking for help

  • Barriers to accessing mental health services (unreliable transportation, financial costs).

4.Know the Protective Factors

There are some protective factors that have been known to help reduce the chances of suicide. The following are some of those protective factors:

  • Good problem-solving and conflict resolution skills

  • Strong connections to family, friends, and community

  • No access to lethal means

  • Cultural and religious beliefs that support self-preservation rather than suicide

  • Easy access to services

  • Support from medical and mental health care relationships

  • Self-esteem and a sense of purpose in life

As parents, we should work to increase these protective factors in our teens’ lives.

5.Take preventative measures

As a parent, please know that you can help protect your teen from the possibility of suicide. Here are some measures you can take:

  • Interact with your teen in a positive way. For example, compliment your teen for good work and also be consistent in the feedback that you give them.

  • Increase your teen’s involvement in positive activities such as in clubs, churches, and/or sports.

  • Promote the safety of your teen by appropriately monitoring their whereabouts and communications (such as texts and social media).

  • Be aware of your teen’s social environment (friends, coaches, teammates)

  • Communicate with your teen’s teachers to be sure that your teen is safe at school.

  • Limit your teen’s access to alcohol, pills, guns, or knives.

  • Explain to your teen that therapy and medication is a good way to manage symptoms.

  • Address your concerns with other adults in your child’s life such as teachers and coaches.

  • Discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor in order to get a mental health referral.

6.Talk to your teen about suicide.

There is a common misconception that talking to your teen about suicide will increase the chances that they have suicidal thoughts, but there hasn’t been any evidence to support this.

It can also be intimidating and possibly anxiety-provoking to consider talking to your teen about a topic such as suicide. However, these tips can help the conversation go more smoothly for you:

  • Encourage your teen to talk about what their feeling.

  • Express loving concern and don’t invalidate your teen’s feelings. For instance, try to avoid saying things such as “You should appreciate all you have in life,” as this may downplay your teen’s pain.

  • Talk calmly and in a non-judgmental way

  • Express how important your teen is to you

  • Focus on your concern for your teen’s well-being. In addition, express that to your teen.

  • Use “I” statements in order to show that you understand the stressors that your teen may be experiencing.

  • Encourage professional help-seeking behaviors

  • Convey to your teen that seeking services can help, in particular, it can help change their outlook.

7. Seek mental health services.

Trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right or if you do notice warning signs of suicidal behavior, engage in appropriate action to protect your teen. Also, be sure to choose a mental health provider with experiencing handling youth suicide.

Above all else, if you feel that danger is imminent, call 911 immediately or take your child to the nearest emergency room.

Kuntry Kidz is a partner to the Jason Foundation, which is an organization that has an app available to help you or someone you know who may be struggling with suicide. It’s called “A Friend Asks,” and you can download this free app from the Apple app store or Google Play. The Jason Foundation also offers an online professional development series to help bring awareness to youth suicide and prevention. It is designed for educators, school personnel, and youth leaders.


Bethune, S. (2014). Teen stress rivals that of adults. Monitor on Psychology, 45, p. 20.

Kaslow, N., Kitsis, P., Thomas, M. A., & Lamis, D. A. (2013). 7 essential steps parents can take to prevent teen suicide. Retrieved from the longest time, the traditional route to “adulthood” and a job has been to go to college. But with the rising costs of tuition and the massive amounts of student loan debt, it may not be the best route to take for some individuals. However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the “overall immediate college enrollment rate in 2017 was not measurably different from the rate in 2000 or 2010.” The immediate college enrollment was defined as the percentage of those who had completed high school who enrolled in 2- or 4- year institutions in the October immediately following their high school graduation. Thus, surprisingly, the college enrollment rate hasn’t appeared to change.

In terms of the best route to take after high school, it depends on one’s interests, goals, financial means/ability, motivation, among other things. This is not to say you shouldn’t go to college, as completing college is an admirable goal to strive for. However, there are exemplars of young people who have sought and found success in other ways. One way is through creating your own business. And there are many examples of young people who have found success in this way, so you can certainly do the same if this is something you want to strive for.

Examples of Teen Entrepreneurs

Tasnim Alam As a junior in high school, Tasnim enjoyed doing DIY things with hair. Thus, Tasnim experimented with ways to curl her hair without heat while doing an at-home makeover. This resulted in her product known as Heatless Hotness, which she sells online. Tasnim idea for cool hair curlers was developed during a class she took on entrepreneurship. Her idea was then fine-tuned with the help of Arlington’s Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Also, she was recently named one of the top 6 young entrepreneurs in the country at the YEA! Scholarship Competition. Mikaila Ulmer At just the age of 4, Mikaila was encouraged by her family to develop a product for the Children’s business competition and Austin Lemonade Day. Her final product came from 2 important events in her life: 1. She was stung by bees twice. 2. Her Great Granny Helen sent Mikaila’s family a 1940s cookbook that included her Great Granny’s recipe for flaxseed lemonade. After Mikaila was stung by bees, she became fascinated with learning as much as she could about bees. In doing all of this, a particular thought came to her: “What if she could make something that helps honeybees and uses her Great Granny’s lemonade recipe?” And then, her business concept of Me & the Bees Lemonade was born. This idea resulted in lemonade that combines Great Granny Helen’s lemonade recipe with honey. Currently, Mikaila’s lemonade is being sold at Whole Foods Markets, more and more restaurants, as well as food trailers and natural food delivery companies. Noa Mintz At just the age of 12, Noa developed Nannies by Noa, which pairs nannies with families who are in a need of a caregiver n New York City. Initially, Noa took care of all the customer service and vetted her candidates Eventually, so Noa could have time for her schoolwork, she hired a CEO who had 25 years of industry experience, as well as 2 additional associates. When Noa turned 17, she appeared on various national tv shows such NBC’s “Today Show” and CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” “Money with Melissa Francis” on Fox Business” and the Steve Harvey show. Noa was also recently named one of Fortune’s “18 under 18 Innovators Who are Changing the World.” Moziah Bridges Moziah is the President and Creative Director of Mo’s Bows (bow ties), which was started when he was only 9-years-old. Moziah started his company with the help of his mother and grandmother, who was a seamstress. He started selling his bow ties on his own websites and at Memphis retail stores. Eventually, Moziah’s bow ties made quite the impression on major networks, which resulted in Moziah appearing on the Steve Harvey show, the Today Show, Oprah, and even Shark Tank. In fact, Shark Tank’s Daymond John continues to serve as Moziah’s mentor, which has helped him continue to grow his business. His success is evident in the fact that Moziah’s company has sold more than $300,000 worth of bow ties and men’s accessories. Final Thoughts These examples of young entrepreneurs should be an inspiration for you that you can do what you want at any age. So, don’t let age be a factor in your success! References

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