By Celia Lowry
Special to The SUN
September is Suicide Awareness Month and, unfortunately, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Younger children can be at risk as well. Therefore, it is important for everyone in the community to learn the warning signs in order to help prevent youth suicide.
Common risk factors include mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, alcohol and substance use, impulsive behaviors, family or friends who have died by suicide, and previous suicide attempts. Children who are bullied or isolated at school and in their homes are also at increased risk. Youth who identify as LGBTQ experience an increased risk as well, especially if they do not feel supported by their families. Many youth will have several of these risk factors, so it is important to be aware of the warning signs that often occur before a suicide attempt.
These include physical changes in appearance or hygiene, increase in alcohol or substance use, sudden drop in grades or school attendance, social withdrawal, talking about suicide or a preoccupation with death, risky or reckless behaviors, self-harm behaviors such as cutting, talking about being hopeless, and researching suicide methods.
There are things you can do to help a teen who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide. First, let them know that you are concerned about them and don’t be afraid to talk to them about their suicidal thoughts. It is a myth that talking about suicide increases the risk. It is important for you to let them know that you care about them and their well-being.
Secondly, really listen to them. Sometimes we become uncomfortable with upsetting conversations and try to shut them down; however, it is important that we allow them to talk about all of their feelings. Also, stay connected; often a teen appears to be feeling better and we assume that they are no longer suicidal. Sometimes this is not the case, so it is vital that we continue to reach out and actively support them over time. The most important thing we can do is always prioritize their safety. This includes removing potential weapons from the home and not leaving them alone until they have been evaluated by a mental health professional.
If you are concerned about someone, there is help available in the community. You can contact our local crisis line at 247-5245, the state crisis line at (884) 493-8255, text “Talk” to 38255 or call the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255. You can also go to the local emergency room or call 911.