It’s quite common for young people to feel strong emotions while going through the ups and downs of adolescence. But for some young people, the downs can be so intense and extreme that they think about taking their own life.
So how do you figure out what’s within a ‘normal range’ and when you should be concerned?
Research shows that there are some key suicide warning signs to be aware of. Warning signs are behavioral changes, feelings or thoughts that can provide ‘clues’ or ‘red flags’ about young person’s risk of suicide.
Some warning signs may be relatively easy to pick up, such as when a young person says they want to die or talks about death, while other signs are harder to spot – if young person is trying to hide their emotions and feelings from family or friends, you’ll need to watch out for changes in their behavior.
You’re really looking for dramatic changes in behavior and mood over a relatively short period of time:
- Watch for dramatic changes in behavior
- Monitor changes
- Ask questions
Take all warning signs seriously. Common warning signs are:
- Drastic changes in mood and behavior.
- Feeling alone or isolated – “No one understands me”.
- A sense of hopelessness or no hope for the future.
- Irritability and aggressiveness – “Leave me alone”.
- Making suicide threats – “Sometimes I feel like I just want to die”.
- The negative view of self – “I am worthless”.
- Frequently writing or talking about death – “If I died, would you miss me?”
- Possessing lethal means – e.g. medication, sharp objects, weapons.
- Substance abuse.
- Self-harming behaviors like cutting.
- Engaging in ‘risky’ behaviors – “I’ll try anything, I’m not afraid to die”.
- Making funeral arrangements.
- Giving things away like expensive gifts or clothes – “When I am gone, I want you to have this”.
- Feeling like a burden to others – “You would be better off without me”.
One way to understand how young person feels is by listening to how they talk to their mates online. Watch what they may be saying on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you suspect something’s wrong, talk to them about it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you can’t put the thought of suicide into someone’s head by raising the issue. Rather, talking things through gives your young person a chance to open up and share what they’re going through, and allows you to support them.
A person in acute risk for suicidal behavior most often:
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.
- Looking for ways to kill him or herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means.
- Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him or herself.
These might be remembered as expressed or communicated ideation. If observed, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral.