A common-sense approach to helping Teens

Teenagers are young people who have not had the time or experience to know who they are, or where they fit into the world. Everything to a teenager is a learning experience – If I dress in a certain way I will get attention. If I hang with one crowd I will be considered cool. If I do well in school I will get praise from my parents. If I misbehave, I will get attention.

When teenagers die by suicide they are really committing an act of mistaken identity – They are killing a perception of who THEY think they think they are, not the reality of where they truly fit in the world. Teenagers have parents, teachers, friends, coaches and clubs full of people who care about them….they just don’t see it.

As a parent, what should I watch for?

First of all, you know your child better than anyone else. You have been with them from the beginning. When they were little, you knew they were ill before they started showing symptoms of a fever. Perhaps their eyes looked a little glassy or they didn’t want dessert or they just looked sluggish. Trust your gut feeling, they are your children.

Many times their English teacher may have noticed their essays are talking about dark subjects or the PE teacher sees a change in their behavior. Your children’s teachers are a great resource for you.

One of the first things to do is to secure all medications, firearms and alcohol. 60% of all teen suicides are accomplished with guns. Females have a higher tendency to overdose on drugs or to cut themselves. Males use more lethal ways such as guns, hanging or jumping.

Ask them how they are feeling. BE DIRECT!

You may start the conversation out with, “I know you’ve been a bit quiet the last few weeks/days and I respect your space but as a parent/friend it is my job to ask you how you are doing if I think something is up.”

Ask them, “what is going on?”  “Have you thought about taking your own life?” Look at their body language for a reaction. If they hesitate, look down, put their chin on their shoulder or look away then they are probably thinking about taking their life or have planned it. If they immediately reply “No!” then they probably are not contemplating suicide.

Let them know you care. Here are a few more suggestions for questions:

  • “Have you decided how you are going to kill yourself?”
  • “Do you have a date as when you are going to kill yourself?”
  • “What has stopped you from carrying this out so far?”
  • “Do you want help so you don’t kill yourself?”
  • “Will you accept my help to stop you from killing yourself?”

What do I do once they say they want help?

The best possible outcome would be that they say ‘yes.” Ask them if they have immediate thoughts of killing themselves, if so bring them to the E.R. or call 911.

You can bring them to us at HOPE House and we will take them from here. Please call 224-993-5600 to see who is available, if you get no answer or the answering service, we suggest taking the person to the hospital immediately. Our address is 231 W. Main Street, Barrington, IL 60010

Let them know you care, that you are taking the time to be with them because they are worth it!