Today, suicide is the third most common cause of death amongst adolescents between 15 and 25 years old. As a parent, teacher or friend, this can be a scary statistic. Suicide is preventable, however, and there are warning signs you can look for. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent suicide.
1. Educate Yourself
One of the most powerful tools you can use to help prevent teen suicide is education. Understanding the realities of mental health, depression and suicide can help you to support those who are in distress in an adequate way. Reading articles, asking mental health professionals or visiting facilities are all great ways of creating awareness and separating myths from facts.
2. Recognize Warning Signs and Risk Factors
Once a teen starts thinking about suicide they haven’t necessarily “made up their mind” about what action they are going to take. In other words, there are warning signs and risk factors you can pay attention to to help them seek professional support in time. Some of these include talking about death more than usual, making preparations, refusing to set long term goals and disengaging from activities or social circles. Risk factors to keep in mind include a family history of suicidal behavior, previous suicide attempts, psychological disorders and a lack of social support.
3. Communicate Openly
Encouraging open communication is another important way to help prevent suicide in teens. Provide opportunities for sharing thoughts and feelings so that you have an understanding of where the teen is at emotionally and so that they know there is someone who cares about them.
4. Build Positive Strategies
Building positive coping strategies also sets teens up for success when upsetting or stressful times appear. Relaxation techniques, art and music therapy, support groups, general organization, proper exercise, healthy sleep and eating habits are all tools that can help channel negative energy and lead to positive coping instead.
5. Ask for Help
When in doubt, if you suspect a teen might be considering suicide or is at risk of it, direct them to a mental health professional. Do not take the burden of preventing suicide on your shoulders alone. A professional will be well-equipped to recommend therapy and treatment options to help an adolescent lead a positive life.
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