Many parents are aware of when their child is dealing with a problem that seems emotionally overwhelming. The symptoms are obvious. Your child may become quiet, distant, anxious, or they might even begin to act out—starting fights, making messes, and having full-on tantrums.
But, how do you differentiate between a situation that has temporary effects and a situation that could lead to a child deciding to end their life? Usually, victims of suicide are simultaneously dealing with depression. Some signs of depression to look for are: Sadness, Emptiness or Numbness, Hopelessness or Helplessness, Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities, Loss of appetite or noticeable weight loss, Insomnia or Hypersomnia, Fatigue, Lack of concentration, Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt.
These symptoms are not exhaustive and can show up differently given the child’s developmental age. Though depression can occur, generally, at any age, a child’s risk of suicide significantly increases as they hit puberty. This developmental period is a time of drastic change, confusion, insecurity, and self-doubt. As they continue to build friendships and interact with different peer groups, they may struggle to adjust to these changes. The stress of this transition can present numerous challenges which lead to your child’s depression. Not to mention, biological factors or a family history of anxiety and depression can also play a role in your child’s experience with depression.
You may have heard your child say, “I want to die," or "I’m going to kill myself.” Sometimes these phrases are said, and the feelings are real, but the intent to act on those feelings is lacking. How can you tell if suicide is more likely for your child? As professionals, therapists are trained to look for key indicators which may increase the likelihood that a child may commit suicide. I wish to pass that knowledge on to you. Some key indicators that can hint at a higher likelihood of a suicide attempt are:
(1) A belief that their suffering will never end. Effectively, the child sees that there is no logical way to end their depression or the situation which brought those feelings about. They experience a level of hopelessness which is beyond a reasonable level of hope.
(2) Isolation makes it extremely easy for children to experience loneliness and for others to become unaware of the signs of suicide. A sense of shame or guilt can also accompany the child and create a sense that they are a burden to others and that they may be “better off dead” to themselves and others. This fuels a sense of rejection, isolation, and loneliness. (3) Loss or Trauma (Bereavement/Various tyes of Assault) factors into a higher likelihood of the completion of suicide. Additionally, knowing someone who has successfully committed suicide presents an added risk for children.
What To Do?
Suicide is about escaping. People who commit suicide are seeking an escape and conclude that death is the best option for escape. Helping your child understand their emotions and helping them reconcile that suffering is inevitable, but that it does not last forever can make an invaluable difference. Of course, it is best to consult with a licensed therapist that is trained in this topic rather than taking on this endeavor by yourself. They are equipped to talk to your child and get to the root of their debilitating belief system. Instilling confidence in and showing support for your child at this time is crucial.
They must know that their life is valuable and necessary to the people they care about most and that they are not an inconvenience or a burden to others. Once this belief is established, they must be willing to take steps to overcome their momentary suffering. This could be engaging in small, fun activities which can temporarily alleviate suffering. Additionally, medication can be helpful in providing an extra level of care when regulating moods.
If you suspect your child may be at risk for suicide, please note that there are numerous resources available to help and support you and your family. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) is a fantastic resource to have available when addressing suicidal ideation. These resources can be the difference between hope and regret.
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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