While we like to think that youth suicide is a rare occurrence, the fact is that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24.
While the rationale for the act varies, there are warning signs that parents, educators and friends should be aware of that can help signal a problem. Some are blatant, others are more subtle. All should be taken very seriously. Do not be afraid to broach the subject. By asking questions and offering a sympathetic ear to the child in need, you are providing assurance that somebody cares, as well as, giving him/her the chance to talk about his/her problems.
Warning Signs To Look For
- Acute personality changes including withdrawal, aggressiveness or moodiness
- New involvement in high-risk activities
- Themes of death or depression become evident in conversations, reading selections, artwork and/or in written materials such as journal selections, essays or poems
- Continuously commenting that they would not be missed if they were to leave
- Putting affairs in order, such as giving away favorite possessions or throwing away important belongings
- Acts of self-destruction to the body become apparent
- Recent loss of a friend or family member (or even a pet through death), suicide or other “losses” (for example, loss of a parent resulting from divorce, loss of friends or change of school resulting from a move, loss of a boyfriend/girlfriend resulting from a break-up) can cause a child to become depressed and have thoughts of committing suicide
- Sudden dramatic decline in academic performance, chronic truancy or tardiness, or running away
- Physical symptoms such as eating disturbances, changes in sleeping patterns, chronic migraines, stomachaches or menstrual irregularities
- Use or increased use of alcoholic substances or drug abuse
- Loss of interest in their favorite activities
For those under the false impression that suicide is the only way out, it is critical to know that help is available. If you need help or if you know of a child, who is showing suicidal warning signs, please contact your school, spiritual leader, professional counselor or other community resource for help. With support from family and professional counselors, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a healthy path of development. We must all make a commitment to helping today’s youth before another innocent life is lost.