Adolescence is a critical transitional period characterized by rapid physical and emotional changes. Teen years are typically associated with attributes such as stubbornness, irritability, rebellion and risk-taking behavior. It is a vulnerable age where academic stress, peer pressure and parental expectations can negatively impact youngsters’ psychological health. Young children often suffer from emotions such as insecurity, low self-esteem and hopelessness. Although many parents may dismiss such traits as a normal part of aging, they can actually be indicative of underlying issues such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The teens’ impulsive nature significantly increases their risk of extreme reactions to situations. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that the rates of major depressive episodes (MDE) among youth aged 12-17 years have increased from 8.8 percent in 2005 to 12.5 percent in 2015. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), highlights that “depression, anxiety and other mental disorders increase the risk of suicide.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that in 2014, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among youth aged 10-24. Recent data indicate that suicide rates for youth aged 15-19 have been increasing since 2007.
Since September is observed as the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, it presents an opportunity for parents and educators to get to know about warning signs of suicidal tendencies among teens. It is time for families and friends to engage in discussions, raise awareness and help children with suicide ideation gain access to treatment facilities. It is also an opportunity to help youngsters reframe their negative mindsets into positive thoughts so that their emotional well-being is optimized.
Helping adolescents think realistically and positively
Past research shows that positive and negative expectations regarding the future determine the risk of developing mental disorders, especially anxiety and mood disorders. Optimism dampens feelings of hopelessness and significantly influence suicide ideation. Reframing youngsters’ negative mindsets into realistic thoughts are critical for preventing suicide. It will also help in equipping them with the key skills for college and later life.
Parents, peers, and educators can look out for the following signs of problematic thinking patterns in teens:
- Imagining worst-possible outcomes and constantly harboring pessimistic thoughts about the future, which can lead to avoidance behavior, and high levels of stress and anxiety.
- Dwelling on disappointments and injustices while completely disregarding neutral experiences often contributes to depressive symptoms.
- Feeling unfairly treated, even in case of trivial setbacks, can be indicative of simmering anger. Such feelings can impair relationships with family and friends.
- Reluctance to confront obstacles by constantly asserting “I cannot” or “I’m too bad” fosters helplessness. Lack of willingness to try new opportunities or solve problems usually worsens situations.
Parents should not make attempts to suppress such thinking. Research shows that this can lead to a rebound of the very thoughts which are being targeted. Suppression leads to a range of emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, dysphoria and substance abuse. Parents need to encourage their children to adopt a more balanced approach in looking at life experiences and facing them with hope and resilience. This will boost their self-confidence, and improve their chances of recovery and happiness.
Teen suicide is preventable
Teen suicide can be prevented by following these simple steps:
- Identifying warning signs: Parents should watch out for common warning signs such as substance abuse, social withdrawal, irregular sleep patterns, altered eating habits, disinterest in extracurricular activities and being obsessed with thoughts related to death.
- Listening: Very often, teens need a caring and patient individual who will listen to them. The elderly people need to reassure youngsters that help is available whenever they need it.
- Talking: Parents should be prepared to engage in meaningful conversations with their child regarding suicide. This includes removing misconceptions, especially regarding glamorization of suicide, and equipping youngsters with sufficient and factual information.
If ignored, recurrent negative thinking and problematic behaviors may push a child into succumbing to life stressors. It’s important to guide them on the right path at the earliest. White River Academy, one of the leading therapeutic boarding schools, offers treatment for teen depression and other mental health problems. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives to understand more about depression in teens and ways to comfort them.