Suicide has a tremendous impact on the lives of countless individuals. When someone takes their own life, friends, loved ones, and acquaintances are left to pick up the pieces and often find themselves wondering whether they could have done anything differently to prevent the tragic outcome. Our kids are crying out for help, let’s protect our youth from suicide
Unfortunately, suicide rates are on the rise in the United States.
In 2018, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among those between the ages of 10 and 24. What’s more, a 2019 study found that 18.8 percent of high school students had thought about killing themselves at one point in their lives, 8.9 percent actually tried.
During the pandemic, suicide rates amongst youngsters increased, with female suicide attempts growing 50 percent and male suicide attempts ticking up 4 percent.
Feelings of depression and helplessness also became more pervasive as the pandemic altered young people’s experiences at home, school, and in the community — which had a profoundly negative effect on their mental health.
In order to curb these trends and help the next generation, therapists, mental health professionals, parents, and other influential adults in the kid’s lives need to work together.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the factors that drive youths toward suicide, signs that a younger individual might be thinking about suicide, and some suicide prevention strategies and techniques you can use to help clients and their families reduce the chances someone they love tries to end their life.
What Causes Youths to Consider Suicide?
While you likely are already familiar with the factors that can increase the likelihood a younger person decides to end their own life, here’s a brief refresher:
- Feelings of isolation
- Genetics (e.g., family history of suicide)
- Psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression or bipolar)
- Substance abuse
- Dealing with tragedy (e.g., death of a friend or family member; divorce)
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Breaking up with a romantic partner
- Getting arrested or expelled from school
As a mental health professional or an adult, it’s important to look at these causes through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, youngsters who already were dealing with feelings of isolation felt perhaps even more isolated in the era of remote learning. Similarly, a young person with substance abuse problems might have found themselves indulging in higher quantities as they were stuck at home. If a teenager was being abused by a parent and was forced to stay home all the time, that abuse might have gotten worse, too.
The GoodTherapy registry is an excellent resource. We have thousands of therapists listed who would love to walk with you on your journey. Find the support you need today!
Signs a Youngster Might Have Thoughts of Suicide
Now that we’ve explored some of the biggest drivers of suicide, let’s turn our attention to some telltale signs that might indicate a young person is considering suicide.
Here are some signs that might signal a young person has thoughts of suicide.
One of the most obvious signs of suicidal thoughts occurs when someone explicitly talks about ending their life directly, e.g., I wish that I were dead! Someone might also be thinking about suicide when they make indirect statements like: I hate my life so much!
Fixation on death
If a youngster is writing essays about death, drawing pictures about death, and otherwise seems fixated on death, they might be thinking about ending their life.
When a young person starts withdrawing from social obligations, starts doing worse in school, or stops investing energy in activities they used to love, they may be dealing with depression, which could lead to suicide.
Previous suicide attempts
While some people think that folks who survive a suicide attempt won’t risk it again, that’s simply not true. In fact, research suggests that people in this group are at the highest risk for trying to commit suicide again within a year of their attempt.
Making final arrangements
If you notice that a youngster is saying goodbye to friends, coworkers, and fellow students — and that they’re giving away their favorite possessions — it could indicate they’re planning to commit suicide.
Suicide Prevention Strategies & Techniques
If we as a country hope to protect youth from suicide, mental health professionals need to share strategies and techniques that can help parents, teachers, and other influential adults reach more young people and have a greater positive impact. Here are three ways to do that.
- Familiarize yourself with therapy approaches
Here are two different approaches to therapy that can help you effectively work with suicidal youths:
- Cognitive therapy for suicide prevention is an approach where therapists help clients develop effective coping mechanisms designed to help them successfully manage the factors that cause them to consider committing suicide.
- Dialectical behavior therapy is a tactic that focuses on decoupling the individual with suicidal tendencies from their thoughts, enabling them to see their actions and ideas from a detached perspective. While individuals with suicidal thoughts might not be able to control the way they think, they can learn how to respond to those thoughts from a healthier place.
- Consider alternative treatment options
In addition to using therapy to help a young person conquer their suicidal thoughts, you can also recommend some healthy lifestyle changes which can also make a difference:
- Eating a healthier diet
- Exercise more often
- Practicing meditation and mindfulness
- Getting better sleep
- Giving up alcohol and drugs
- Attend webinars and conferences
Another way mental health professionals can work together to help protect youth from suicide is by putting our brainpower together to devise new strategies, learn what’s working, to influence better outcomes.
To do this, you should consider attending conferences on the subject, following blogs that cover suicide and suicidal issues, and pursuing continuing education opportunities to keep abreast of new trends and developments impacting our youth today.
On April 8, 2022, Dr. Craig Bryan, PsyD, ABPP, is hosting a two-hour webinar where he’ll explore core assumptions about suicide prevention and offer alternative perspectives.
Join the webinar to learn more about:
- The relationships between mental illness and suicidal behavior
- The multiple possible pathways to suicide
- Key limitations of common suicide risk screening methods
- The prevention by design framework
- Empirically-supported strategies to construct a robust suicide prevention plan
For more information on the webinar or to register to attend, check this out.
For additional resources, GoodTherapy Recovery Treatment Centers provide addiction support. Use the GoodTherapy Recovery Treatment Center directory for options today.
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