No parents like to think their child is unhappy, even less that he or she is depressed or suicidal, but it is a reality that has plagued generations of teenagers. Good parenting is a very demanding job, it is also highly dynamic as every child is unique and some intense changes occur during puberty.
How can you tell the difference between hormone-charged behaviors, and suicidal warning signs?
What Are The Signs?
Here are some caution signals that every parent should be on the lookout for:
Red Flags – Call for Action
- Words: Your child makes serious and repeated statements of being worthless, a nuisance to society, the cause of all your troubles, or better off dead.
- Emotions: Extreme sadness, anger or resentment towards life, self, or others.
- Drop: Sudden and drastic disengagement from school, friends, or family. She loses all interest in what was once her passion.
- Means: You notice purchases or possession of harmful substances or weapons.
- Cleaning: Your child says his goodbyes. He or she donates cherished belongings.
Yellow Flags – Pay Close Attention
- Death: Fascination or sudden interest in death. If your child is reading a lot of fiction stories involving terror and death, this sudden interest might be related to her new tastes and influenced by the books she reads or the movies she watches. However, a new interest in such topics, combined with a darker, withdrawn, sad demeanor, can be an important change to keep an eye on.
- Grades: Are grades falling fast? Is your child suddenly skipping school and lying about his whereabouts? School is often the #1 stressor for adolescents. Bullying, pressure to excel, negative influence, physical appearance, to name only a few, can make school the worse place for him to be. These signs can indicate a learning disability or a need for guidance, but it can also be a sign that he is throwing in the towel; feeling he will never be good enough, or capable of succeeding.
- Social: Your child used to be outgoing and surrounded with good friends; suddenly those relationships are gone and have been replaced with questionable ones.
- Personality: Your once loving and respectful teen turns into someone you do not recognize. She no longer talks about her day. She refuses to explain why she is crying in her room for hours. Loud, aggressive or depressing music fills the bedroom constantly. Welcome to teenage years! All of this can be quite normal and predictable, however, any long lasting, drastic changes in your child’s personality should be considered as a possible warning sign that something is not quite right, or symbolizes a cry for attention.
- Amicable and Quiet: This should be our most valued prize as a parent, to see our child always happy, content, and not disapproving of everything we say. As blissful as this may seem, an unusual contentment and agreeable nature might also be a controversial sign of giving up.
These are only a few of the possible symptoms of severe depression that could lead your child to suicidal intents.
As a parent, the best you can do is to be compassionate and listen to your child’s spoken, and unspoken words, and seek help when in doubt. Additional support is sometimes needed to address the extremely stressful and trying journey of being a teenager in today’s world.
There are wonderful and dedicated parents that have lost a child to suicide, unconditional loving support is not always enough. Suicide awareness is crucial for all of us.
If you do not believe your child to be at risk for depression or suicide, it might be a good idea to introduce the subject openly as a preventive measure. Adolescents are often the first to notice these changes in their friends or peers at school. Either one of you could be saving someone’s life.