Suicidal Thoughts In Teenagers: How Can You Help As A Parent?
Trigger Warning: certain words or information in this article might be triggering for some people. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, Call the national emergency helpline at 112immediately.
If you are hurting, remember why you held on for so long, you are stronger than you know.
Mental well-being is crucial for everyone, regardless of age. The teenage years however are even more challenging as the person struggles to form and accept his or her identity. This period includes young adults trying to understand themselves and the world around them which makes them vulnerable. Teenage can be a difficult time, both for the teen and the parents. It can be a very strenuous period as it includes a drastic transition from childhood to maturity and leaves the person feeling confused, lonely, or anxious.
People aged 15 to 24 years have the highest suicide rate in India. Several factors contribute to this trend. You might have noticed that as children reach their teen years, they often distance themselves from their families. They start believing that no one gets them and this becomes a major reason for a disconnect between the parents and the child.
Why Is Your Child Having Such Suicidal Thoughts?
There are multiple reasons for teenage suicide. Both psychological and environmental factors contribute to adolescents facing suicidal thoughts. Very often, they may not tell you the reason directly because of the fear of being judged, considered weak, or simply due to the generation gap. Some common reasons for suicidal thoughts in young adults are-
Parent’s divorce, moving to a new place, breakup, etc.
Victim of bullying
How Can You Help As A Parent?
You might be feeling helpless when dealing with your kid who is experiencing negative thoughts. We cannot tell you that being a teenager or parenting a teenager is easy and simple. It’s hard and we understand it. However, there are many things you can do to understand your child better and help them.
1. Identifying The Warning Signs
The first step you should take is to recognize the suicidal tendency before it becomes too late. Recognizing the warning signs can help save you and your child a lot of pain. Observe them see if they have been acting differently lately or if something is troubling them. Here are some early warning signs for suicidality in youth –
Withdrawal from social situations
Frequent mood swings
Writing about suicide, ending their life, or how hard life is.
Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
A sudden decrease in academic or cocurricular performance.
Increased consumption of alcohol and drugs.
Frequently confessing that they feel alone.
Saying things like “no one gets me”, and ” you will never understand me”.
Loss of appetite, eating very less or not eating at all, or sudden change in eating patterns.
Change in personality, being quieter, and asking to be alone.
Talking about or engaging in self-harm.
Children often try to seek help or tell someone about these thoughts indirectly. They may use phrases like “I will not be a problem for you for long”, “I can’t take it anymore”, “I am not strong”, etc. These must be taken very seriously and considered a call for help. You should intervene and consider professional help if you feel that your child is showing these warning signs.
2. Be Available
We know that you love your child, but sometimes, you just have to show it the way they want you to. Your child should always feel that they can come to you and share their worries, doubts, and problems, or simply have a chat with you about their feelings. Mere physical presence is not enough. Emotional availability is very important for your child, especially when they are going through a hard time.
3. Make Them Feel Heard
Acknowledge their emotions and tell them you understand how they are feeling. They will only trust you when they feel respected. They should be able to talk to you without the fear of judgment. Good parent-child communication can help prevent teenage suicide. Sometimes all a distressed person needs are someone they can confide in. Being a good listener is a prerequisite to being a good parent.
4. Be Their Number 1 Cheerleader
Encourage your children. Motivate them and appreciate even their smallest achievements. Show your teenager that you are proud of them and make them feel that they are worthy of all your love and support. Even a few words of encouragement can do wonders for their self-esteem. They learn strategies to boost their confidence.
5. Unconditional Love
Children need a certain amount of unconditional love from their parents for positive growth. You shouldn’t love them only when they are at their best, but also when they are at their lowest. Your child should feel that you support them no matter what and are there. You should be someone who they find first after making a mistake, not someone they are afraid will find out about it.
Parents often promise gifts if the child scores well, but it is also your duty to teach them to deal with failure.
6. Be Patient
Parenting is hard; it is not all happy-go-lucky. You have to be patient with your child. Healing is a slow process, and it may take them some time to recover from all the pain. All you can do is be with them through the journey. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. You may fall down at times, but always remember to be sensitive to their feelings.
7. Seek Professional Help
Suicide is a major cause of death in teenagers. Contact a mental health professional as soon as possible after you recognize the signs of suicidal tendencies. Suicidal thoughts can be due to an underlying mental health problem. Helping it before it’s too late is extremely important. Counseling can help your child in surprising ways.
Seeing your own child in pain is one of the most difficult things for a parent. But you have to realize that it’s even more difficult for your child. You may struggle to understand them at times, but being there by their side and telling them you are there for them no matter what can make all the difference Most importantly, be empathetic. Your presence greatly influences your kids; simply seeing you try can help ease their state of mind.
It can be a bumpy road, but together you and your child can deal with it and even come out of it stronger.
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Disclaimer: Please note that we are not a crisis intervention helpline. Should you have severe symptoms or have thought about harming yourself, please seek immediate medical help or call suicide prevention helplines such as
Aasra 24x7 Helpline: 91-22-27546669