Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out and immediately dial the National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline 0966-351-4518.
Suicide rates escalated when COVID-19 lockdowns lefts millions of Filipinos jobless and isolated. The Philippine Statistics Authority recorded 4,420 deaths by suicide in 2020, a 57.3% increase from 2019’s 2,810 Among the victims of this surge are teenagers.
Because of this, it is much more important for parents to learn about suicide warning signs and the things they can do to help prevent teenage suicide.
7 Suicide Prevention Tips
1. Watch Out For Signs of Mental Health Problems
It's hard to figure out if your teenage child has signs of mental health problems. Often, we mistake signs of deteriorating mental health with teenage angst, edginess, and an “attitude”.
As a parent, it matters to spot these warning signs before it’s too late:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Talking or joking about suicide
- Suspicious internet search history involving harmful objects, medicine, dangerous places, or activities related to suicide
- Giving away important belongings like gadgets, guitars, etc
- Saying goodbye to family, friends, etc
- Self-injury (cuts, scratches, burns, or bruises
- Showing lack of interest in the future
- Apathy towards things they used to care deeply about.
- Extreme sadness
- Difficulties in schoolwork, chores, and other responsibilities
Reserve your judgments and focus on getting your child the help they need. During this point of their struggle, they need all the support and validation to help fight their struggles.
2. Keep Weapons or Any Potentially Harmful Objects Locked or Hidden
Guns, bladed weapons, and other potentially harmful tools are dangerous for children. While important for some households, keep them safe, secure, and hidden especially when you observe the mentioned warning signs above.
This is not exclusive to potentially dangerous tools. Prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs, alcohol, household cleaners, ropes, belts, etc can also become a potential suicide tool. Keep them locked in cabinets if your child show suicide warning signs.
Suicidal thoughts are sometimes impulsive. A moment of extreme stress or crisis can escalate into a suicide attempt. Keeping these objects locked and hidden can help prevent suicide.
3. Pay Attention To Risk Factors
Like with any illness, suicide has different risk factors that increase the likelihood of it happening to a person. These risk factors include but are not limited to:
- Family history of mental health problems and suicide
- Personal or family history of substance use
- Poverty or financial instability
- Witnessing or experiencing traumatic events (i.e. domestic abuse, violence, sexual assault, etc)
- History of suicide attempts
- Chronic pain
- Experiencing bullying and discrimination
- Direct or indirect exposure to suicide from family members, peers, or media
4. Show Empathy and Understanding
There are times when parents react with shock, hurt, and anger when the subject of mental health or suicide is mentioned by their children.
Parents, this is not about you. Don’t be the parent who makes light of their child’s struggles. This will hurt and invalidate your children’s feelings and can worsen the problem when they hide their problems from you. This will increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Instead, you must respond in a way that shows you understand their problems and empathize with them. Show them that you are a safe person to confide with, and ensure that they are in a safe space to open up.
Sit down with them, and listen intently when they share their problems. Reassure them that you will be with them through their healing, treatment, and recovery. Sometimes, suicidal thoughts can impair their judgment, and what they need most is someone who can help them fight off the intrusive thoughts.
5. Maintain a Healthy Family Relationship
According to a 2015 article by P Ahookhosh et al. published in the International Journal Of High Risk Behaviors and Addiction, “family cohesion and family expressiveness act as predictive factors against depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and suicide ideation.”
Maintain a healthy family relationship to help prevent suicides in the family. A healthy relationship will allow your teenage children to be open in trusting you with their problems.
This open communication between the child and the parent is also very effective in preventing a second suicide attempt based on the 2020 article by C Katsivarda et al., published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychiatriki.
6. Seek Professional Help As Soon As Possible
If your teenage child is showing signs of suicidal behavior, seek medical help immediately. Reach out to your pediatrician or a mental health professional to treat your child.
Asking for their assistance will help you and your child to create a safety plan. This safety plan will cover:
- Warning signs or triggers that may lead to suicidal thoughts
- Ways to help them cope when triggered
- Possible ways family members, friends, teachers, etc can support the child
- Emergency contact numbers
7. Support Their Recovery
Your teenage child needs your time, attention, and care as they undergo their treatment. Always be there to support them in their medication, therapies, and other activities that can treat their conditions. Always remind them that progress isn’t linear, and that what matters most is the consistent desire to get better. Be their anchor for when they get overwhelmed. They don’t have to face this alone, and you have to keep reminding them.
If you need help from mental health professionals, check out this list for mental health care providers in your area.