Suicide and Teens

Suicide and Teens

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

  • Isaiah 41:10

If you’re a parent of a teenager, you are faced with innumerable challenges every day. Parenting a teen in the age of smartphones, social media, and internet is incredibly difficult and downright terrifying. Bullies, harmful internet content, and comparison-driven social media can now reach your child through their device at any hour of the day. 

No one likes to think about the possibility of their child having mental health issues, but asking tough questions can save lives. Not my child. My child is fine! you say, and I hope so! In my previous article, I listed some risk factors and warning signs to watch for that might indicate that someone is contemplating suicide. It was an extensive list and I will not repeat it here, but you might find it helpful. Now, let’s look at some statistics…

Every day in the U.S., there are over 5,400 suicide attempts by kids grades 7-12, and approximately 4,600 lose their lives each year. Between 2007 and 2018, suicide rates for young people ages 10-24 increased nearly 60%. Approximately 17% of adolescents admit to having engaged in self-harm behaviors at least once (that’s 1 in 5!), and the average age of onset for self-injury is 13.

This means that your child – or someone they know – could be at risk. 

What can I do? 

Talk to your kids – Invest in a healthy relationship with your children, and encourage open, honest communication. Do your best to enter their worlds and learn what is going on in their lives! Encourage them to develop healthy friendships, build solid connections, and develop a community of support. If a child is afraid of condemnation or “getting in trouble” for speaking up, many will choose to stay silent or confide in a peer. When talking with your children, be sure to listen to them – kids and teens crave to be heard, understood, and loved. If they don’t feel that way at home, they will frequently look to have that need met elsewhere.

Monitor technology and social media – This is important and often overlooked. If you aren’t already familiar with the apps on your teen’s phone, change that as soon as possible! Thanks to technology, there exist far more opportunities for a teenager to get into trouble online than existed 20 years ago. Cyberbullying is insidious and dangerous and it follows kids home from school – and many kids don’t report it. I recommend that parents set firm boundaries regarding smartphones and social media (such as a designated “tech-free time” after 7, 8, or 9pm, parents having complete password privileges to all accounts and devices, frequent parental checks of online communication, etc.). Social media puts a lot of pressure on teens that did not exist a few decades ago, pressure that even adults (with their fully formed brains and longer life experience) cannot always handle! 

Observe – If you know your children well, you will often be able to notice changes in behavior patterns or relationships that could indicate a red flag. Becoming aware of these alarming changes early allows you to intervene. Some people do not know how to ask for help but will share their struggle if confronted by someone that they love. 4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs in advance. If that sounds like a cry for help, it’s because it is. 

Teach them to speak up for others – While it is by no means a teen’s responsibility to keep a friend from harming themselves, a fellow adolescent will sometimes be able to spot warning signs before a parent. Based on the statistics listed above, someone in your child’s circle could be struggling. Contrary to popular myth, talking about suicide does not increase the likelihood that someone will attempt suicide, so ask! And if your child comes to you, concerned about a friend, you can work as a team to encourage that friend to speak up and seek help. 

Seek help –  If your child divulges that they have contemplated suicide, seek help immediately. Some parents hesitate, thinking that their child is joking or just seeking attention, but suicide is not a joking matter. There have been tragic cases where a child tried to make a point by engaging in a suicide attempt designed to fail, only to have it succeed. A child or adolescent cannot always be trusted to make wise decisions about their own welfare – that’s where the parents come in. Always take it seriously – at the very least, they will learn that suicide is not something to joke about or threaten as a form of manipulation. 

If there is immediate danger, call 911 right away. Otherwise, seek professional help, such as a pastor or a licensed counselor. Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number (1-800-273-TALK [8255]) and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741) in your phone so you have it when you need it.

This is a terrifying idea for any parent to contemplate. No one wants to face this issue, and you certainly don’t want to face it alone. You need support, too! Reach out to friends, family, or seek professional help that can support you as you do your best for your children. All we can do is the best we can do! God is the only one who is all-powerful, and our families are in His very capable hands. 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

  • Isaiah 41:10

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

The Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential phone line.

Crisis Text Line – 741741

Lifeline Online Chat –