teen with head in hands, help managing suicidal thoughts

Supporting Your Teen to Manage Suicidal Thoughts

The infamous Netflix series 13 Reasons Why recently launched its second season, triggering a fresh wave of controversy over its content.

Parents, educators, and mental health professionals have expressed concern over the graphic scenes depicting violent assault and suicide. As the main targets of the audience are teenagers and young people, the show is considered particularly dangerous as research shows that suicide exposure through media and other sources is a risk factor for suicide.

Despite increased awareness and funding for mental health support programs, the rate of teen suicide has not decreased significantly since its peak in 1997. Suicide continues to be one of the biggest causes of death in the 15-19 age group, accounting for over 35% of male deaths and over 28% of female deaths.

If you’re concerned that your teen may be suffering from depression and experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s vital to take action. Talking can reduce the risk of suicide and help your child to get through tough times.

You can help and support your teen in the following ways:

Talk with and Listen to Your Child

Let them know that you care and they are not alone by talking and listening about their feelings without judgment. Help them to understand that tough times will pass and while they might have suicidal thoughts, they do not need to act on them.

Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide directly and be open to talking about suicidal thoughts.

Stay Calm

It’s natural to feel frightened if your child is having suicidal thoughts but getting angry or trying to make your teen feel guilty will only make the situation worse.

Accept that your child’s feelings are genuine and that they can’t simply cheer up or snap out of it.

Teens often don’t talk to their parents about their feelings or mental health because they’re worried about the reaction they will receive. Try to relax and show you’re there to help and support them.

Look Out for the Warning Signs

Adolescence is a tumultuous time and it can be difficult to tell the difference between normal teen “moody” behaviour and serious signs that they may be at risk of suicide. Keep an eye out for warning signs, including:

  • Withdrawing from friends, school, and family
  • Talking about feeling worthless or hopeless
  • Dramatic changes in mood or personality including seeming happy after a bout of depression
  • Giving away valued possessions
  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Keeping weapons or medications
  • Frequent talking about death or suicide
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Disturbing or emotional posts on social media.

It’s important that you take warning signs seriously and contact a medical professional or suicide helpline such as Kids Helpline if you believe your child may be at risk of suicide.

Agree on a Safety Plan Together

You can’t stay with your child to keep them safe every minute of the day. Suicidal thoughts can come and go and it’s important to help your child to get through the moments when they are most vulnerable.

Make a pact with your teen that they will not act on any suicidal thoughts before calling a helpline or telling you or a friend.

You can also work with a mental health professional or use an app like BeyondNow to create a safety plan and help your teen stay safe and get through their hardest moments.

If your child is at imminent risk of acting on suicidal thoughts, stay with them and call 000.

Seek Professional Help

A professional psychologist or counsellor, such as the team at Perth’s Psychological Health Care clinics, can help your child to talk through their feelings and develop strategies to deal with suicidal thoughts.

It can be very distressing if your child is suicidal and you do not have to face the problem alone. Professional counsellors are trained in a range of mental health care issues and know exactly how to deal with teenagers who are depressed or having suicidal thoughts.