Suicide is the second most common cause of death among teenagers and young adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly 18% of teenagers have seriously considered taking their own lives, and 8.6% have attempted to at least once. In an era of physical bullying and cyberbullying, parents constantly worry about the safety of their child’s mental health. If you are a parent concerned about teen suicide, the tips below explain how to talk to your child about depression and suicide.
Make Communication A Habit
Your teenager may not always want to talk to you, especially when something is wrong. That doesn’t mean you should stop talking altogether though. The goal is to create a habit of communication, meaning that your child feels so comfortable talking to you that it’s just part of the routine. The conversations don’t have to be extensive – a quick review of what went on during the day and what the plans are for the week. Do this every night at dinner or in the mornings while you get ready for work/school. Show your teen that the line of communication is always open, and he or she will be more likely to use it in a time of need.
Expose Your Strength And Vulnerability
It’s amazing how effective leading by example is. Your teen may fight every day to not be like you, but in the end, your example will rub off. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child how to process different types of emotions. If you need to grieve, grieve with your child. If you feel stressed and depressed, talk to your child about that in a healthy manner. Do not vent to your child, but rather let them know that it’s OK to feel helpless at times.
Follow-up these moments of vulnerability with moments of strength. Show your child how you plan to overcome a negative situation. This is where the real learning begins. It’s natural to feel sad, but you cannot let that sadness control your life. If you personally need help with depression, work with a depression counselor to get through your current obstacles. Talk to your child about the progress you are making in counseling so he or she knows that there is strength in getting help. When your child sees consistent examples of how to handle tough situations and emotions, he or she will be better equipped to fight teen depression.
Talk About Uncharacteristic Behaviors In A Supportive Way
Has your teen been acting a little “off” lately? The excessive moodiness and emotional outbursts may be a sign of something much bigger below the surface. You do not have to condone this behavior, but you should not immediately disregard it. Consider the root cause of the behavior adjustments, and talk to your child about them in a positive, supportive manner. Perhaps your teen’s best friend moved out of state, or maybe there was a recent death in the family. These situations are tough for a teenager to get through, but he or she will progress easier with your support.
Listen – Truly Listen
All your teen wants to know is that his or her emotions are valid. If your child decides to open up about an important issue, truly listen to what is going on. Put your phone away, turn the TV off, and provide your full, undivided attention. Breaking up with a two-week boyfriend may not seem like an issue to you, but to your teenage daughter, that could feel like the biggest tragedy she’s ever faced. If it matters to your child, it should matter to you. Discuss ways to overcome this situation together, and your teen will know you are on his or her side.
For more information about preventing teen suicide, contact our depression counselors in Michigan. You may also reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time. They have free resources to help teens and adults alike. Help is always available.