This is Part 3 in the Ending Negativity Series
A friend of mine who is an educational psychologist started a non-profit organization called A. Scott Intervention Services. Her intent is to address the issues that are contributing to the current epidemic level of suicidal youth and school violence. I attended her first program and listened to some very moving speakers, and I want to share with you what I learned and help to get the word out.
Why we need to talk about suicide
This isn’t a topic any parent wants to think about. Unfortunately, the responsibility falls on us as adults to prevent suicide, so we need to think about what to do whether we like it or not. Suicide rates among young people have been rapidly increasing over the past few years. In the US, suicide is the second most common cause of death amongst 10-34-year-olds (after accidents). In the UK, there were 177 suicides among 15- to 19-year-olds in 2017, which was up significantly from previous years. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years, according to Save.org.
The biggest increase everywhere is amongst tween and teen girls. Yes, that’s right. I know, it’s really, really scary. Many of us parents didn’t think we’d need to think about this until our kids were older. But that’s not true. If your kids are still little, now is a good time to think about it and raise your kids to have strong mental health. If you haven’t already, please read my articles that I linked above, parts 1 and 2 in my Ending Negativity series.
Why adults need to take action
Many schools are taking action by teaching students to look out for each other. That is necessary since kids often tell each other things what they wouldn’t tell adults. However, adults need to take the burden off of those kids. Parents need to open up the conversation and take the weight off of the young person’s shoulders. We need to let our kids know that if they hear something, they need to tell us so WE can handle it. Teenagers are under so much pressure, and their mental health is suffering. They need to know that the adults in their lives can help.
Know the signs
70-80% of the time, there is warning ahead of time that a person is thinking of suicide. Parents need to know the signs and look for them not only amongst our own children, but we should also be looking at our child’s friends and other kids that we interact with. These signs include:
- Expressing hopelessness about the future
- Withdrawal from friends and/or family
- Sleeping more or less
- Anger, irritability, or sadness that seems out of character
- Changes in appearance
What to do if you are concerned about your child
What if you notice some of these signs in your own child? ASK. If you hear hints – ASK. Some adults are afraid that if they mention suicide to their child, it will put the idea into their head. It won’t. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t avoid it. Often, people become suicidal because they feel alone. You need to talk to your children so they know you are there for them. People become suicidal because they are in pain and they want their pain to end. Help them deal with their pain. Be with them in the pain and help them endure. Find a professional to help you.
How can you prevent your child from getting to this point?
Starting from a very young age, you can help your children. You need to love them and spend time with them and let them know they are important – you are already doing all of these things! To build their mental health, you need to:
- Build up their resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from problems. For more on this topic, read my article about how to help your kids become more resilient.
- Teach your children to have a growth mindset. Growth mindset is the idea that you have the power to increase your intelligence and abilities through hard work and persistence. People who have a growth mindset feel like they have more control over their lives. For more information, read my article about how to raise your kids with a growth mindset.
- If you feel like your kids have a negative attitude, read my article about how to end negative thinking.
- Limit screentime and social media. Studies have shown that screentime affects brain development. In the US, there is a growing movement to not allow children to have social media or smartphones until 8th grade (age 13/14). It’s called “Wait until 8th.” Social media is known to affect mental health, increasing depression and anxiety. It exposes children to cyberbullying and takes time away from other more healthy activities.
- Help your kids to find stress reduction activities that they enjoy. We all need to have pleasant activities and hobbies that we can look forward to in life. Read part 4 in this series: Calming Activities for Tweens and Teens
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Resources for suicide prevention
Befrienders.org is a worldwide group working to prevent suicide. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. You can also call 211 for information and services when you need help. Samaritans is a group that is working toward suicide prevention in the UK and can be reached at 116 123. And as I mentioned above, my friend Amy Scott’s website is servicesforkids.com
Remember parents – we are all in this together. If we all dedicate ourselves to raising our kids right and looking out for other people’s children, too, we can make a difference. If you are concerned about your child, please see a professional.
I have started a support group for parents on Facebook. It’s called Moms and Families of Tweens and Teens with Anxiety and Depression. It’s a place to get ideas and share resources as well as to vent and lift each other up. Please join us!
Please pin and share this article to help me educate parents on this important topic!