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As a teenager, your son or daughter will begin to experience the stress and responsibility of being an adult.

Adolescence is a major developmental period for teens – not only physically with regards to their bodies changing, but also mentally as they are confronted with complex feelings and emotions. Stress, confusion, fear and uncertainty all have the ability to influence a teen's problem solving and decision making abilities.  

These developmental changes can be compounded by the magnitude of major life events like moving to a new school, losing friends or family members, divorce, and financial uncertainty. The stress of these events may cause feelings of anger, embarrassment and frustration to become overwhelming.

Parents must remain observant of their teen's behavior and demeanor, their circle of friends and the nature of their environments at home or at school to recognize and prevent suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Learn To Identify Suicidal Behaviors

Parents and family members can help look for these questionable behaviors to help identify teens who are at risk of attempting suicide:

  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in sports or extracurricular
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Lashing out or running away after an argument
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Neglect of personal appearance
  • Unnecessary risk-taking
  • Preoccupation with death or dying
  • Emotional or physical distress
  • Loss of interest in school or schoolwork
  • Feelings of boredom
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Expressing a desire to die
  • Lack of response to praise
  • Evidence of panning or efforts to commit suicide

Suicidal behavior can resemble depression in many ways. Always talk with your teen's health care provider for an official medical diagnosis before determining a plan of action or treatment method.

Manage Risk Factors At Home And Elsewhere

Risk factors for suicide will vary with your teen's age, gender and environment. Parents should remain observant of the following risk factors, especially when they occur in combination with each other:

  • Undesirable life events
  • Recent deaths in friends or family
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • Firearm in the home
  • Imprisonment or criminal activity
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others

Managing these risk factors can be a daily challenge for some parents. Talk with your teen about the importance of open and honest communication in situations when they are not feeling like themselves.

Understand Your Teen's Treatment Options

If your teen has expressed suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide, please realize there is still hope.

Mental health treatment for suicidal feelings, thoughts or behaviors has been shown to be extremely effective and beneficial for teens in similar predicaments.

Treatment typically begins with a detailed evaluation of the events that occurred in your teen's life during the time immediately before he or she started experiencing suicidal behaviors (usually 2-3 days before). A comprehensive evaluation of the teen and your family may contribute to a decision regarding the nature of the treatment plan.

Recommendations may include personalized therapy for your teen and your family as well as the potential for extended hospitalization. In certain cases, a completely supervised and safe environment is required for a full recovery.

Specific treatment for suicidal feelings and behaviors will be discussed with your healthcare provider based on your teen's:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Medical History
  • Extent of symptoms
  • Seriousness of attempts
  • Tolerance for medicines or therapies
  • Expectations regarding a future risk

No matter what direction your teen's plan may take, parents always play a vital role in guaranteeing the success of the treatment process.

Sarah Broadhead, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic 192Dodge Pediatrics

As a little girl, Dr. Sarah Broadhead wanted to grow up to be "just like my favorite aunt 'Dr. Deb.'" As a pediatrician, Dr. Broadhead ('Dr. Sarah') is excited to share in fun milestones as well as hard decisions.  She feels that the parent, child-patient and doctor are a 3-way team and trust is important. "I want them to trust in my judgment and experience and I trust that the parent knows that little girl or boy best." Dr. Broadhead explains: "Kids are amazi ...

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