Suicide: What Should A Parent Know?
Preventing Suicide: Information for Families and Caregivers.
Suicide is one of the most serious symptoms associated with
depression. Although not everyone with depression thinks seriously about
suicide, depression and suicide frequently occur together. If someone in
your family has depression, you should learn more about the warning signs
of suicide and what to do to prevent suicide from happening.
Some Facts about Suicide
Suicide is the third leading cause of death
for 15- to 24-year-olds and the fourth leading cause of death for 10- to
Boys are more likely to commit suicide
but girls attempt suicide more frequently than boys.
The rate of reported suicide has
increased dramatically among 15- to 19-year-old males over the last four
decades; but has remained stable among females and 10- to 14-year-olds.
Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable problems. Therefore,
it is very important to recognize the warning signs that someone may be
considering suicide. Be aware of the following signs or risk factors of
young people who may try to kill themselves:
Drug or alcohol use or abuse
Previous suicide attempt
Withdrawal from friends, family or activities
Neglect of personal appearance, how they look
Running away from home or unusual
Engaging in risky behaviors (e.g., reckless
driving, running in street)
Pregnancy or other significant life changes
Drastic change in eating or sleeping patterns.
Putting things in order, such as giving away
valued possessions or cleaning their room
Hints such as “I’d be better off dead” or “You
won’t have to worry about me much longer”
Writing about death or drawing morbid pictures
Suicide attempts sometimes occur when
the depression improves somewhat, as the young person gets more energy to
act out on these thoughts. Some young people will also seem to be more
cheerful because they experience the decision to kill themselves as a
relief from their suffering and emotional pain.
What Can I Do?
If you suspect that your child may be considering suicide, take it very
seriously. Many suicides can be prevented. The warning signs should not be
Talk to your child or teenager.
Talking about suicide does not put ideas in the child’s head or make them
more likely to act on their thoughts. Instead, it lets him or her know
that you care and that you want to help them feel better.
Listen to your child’s concerns or problems.
Remember that even minor concerns can be very important toa young person.
Don’t dismiss their feelings or try to solve the problems. Be a good
Discuss a plan with your teen about what
they will do if they feel suicidal.
Help them make a list of people they can talk to when they are feeling
suicidal. Have an agreement that they will not be alone when they are
feeling very depressed or out of control.
Take responsibility for giving your child
Watch and make sure they don’t have access to more than one dose.
Remove all lethal objects from the home.
This includes guns, medications, razors and knives. Don’t trust that
hiding these objects in the home is adequate.
In crises, call your child’s counselor or
psychiatrist or 911.
They will help you decide what needs to happento keep your child safe.
Remember, nothing is more important than making sure your child remains
Source: Texas Department of Mental
Health and Mental Retardation
Suicide Warning Signs
Warning signs are observable behaviors that may signal the presence of
suicidal thinking. They may be considered cries for help or invitations to
- Suicide threats: It has been estimated that 80% of all
suicide victims have given some clues regarding their intentions. Both
direct (“I want to kill myself.”) and indirect (“I wish I could fall
asleep and never wake up.”) threats need to be taken seriously.
- Suicide notes and plans: The presence of a suicide note is a
very significant sign of danger. The greater the planning revealed by
the youth, the greater the risk of suicidal behavior.
- Prior suicidal behavior: Prior behavior is a powerful
predictor of future behavior. Therefore, anyone with a history of
suicidal behavior should be carefully observed for future suicidal
- Making final arrangements: Making funeral arrangements,
writing a will, and/or giving away prized possessions may be warning
signs of impending suicidal behavior.
- Preoccupation with death: Excessive talking, drawing,
reading, and/or writing about death may suggest suicidal thinking.
- Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts, and/or
feelings: Depression (especially when combined with hopelessness),
sudden happiness (especially when preceded by significant depression), a
move toward social isolation, giving away personal possessions, and
reduced interest in previously important activities are among the
changes considered to be suicide warning signs.
Intervening to Prevent Suicide
When you see suicide warning signs, immediately ask whether the
individual has suicidal thoughts. Be direct. For example: “Sometimes when
people have your experiences and feelings, they have thoughts of suicide.
Is this something you have thought about?” Failure to ask directly
(saying, “You are not thinking of hurting yourself are you?”) may not give
the needed permission to acknowledge suicidal thinking. When an individual
acknowledges having thoughts of suicide, the following interventions
should be undertaken:
- Remain calm:
Becoming too excited or distressed will
communicate that the potential caregiver is not able to talk about
Allow for the discussion of experiences, thoughts,
and feelings. Be prepared for expression of intense feelings.
- Do not judge:
Try to understand the reasons for considering
suicide without taking a position about whether or not the behavior is
- Provide constant supervision:
Especially when working with
youth, do not leave the individual alone until a caregiver (often a
parent) has been contacted and agrees to provide appropriate
- Remove means:
As long as it does not put the caregiver in
danger, attempt to remove the suicide means.
- Get help:
For students this means not agreeing to keep the
suicidal thinking of a friend a secret. Tell an adult or involve school
mental health professionals, such as a school psychologist, as soon as
possible. For parents and other adult caregivers getting help means
taking action immediately. Seek guidance and support from school or
community mental health resources.
Some additional resources that can be found on-line include: