Thinking about suicide is very common. One study of a large group of teens found that 30 per cent had thought about killing themselves. Another study found that 60 per cent of adults had thought about committing suicide at some point in their lives. Few people talk about these feelings when they have them, and fewer yet ever act on them, because rarely do people really want to die. Their suicidal thoughts and feelings are a sign that they are deeply angry or unhappy about a situation in their life – a situation they don’t think they can change and that makes them feel hopeless.
Signs of Feeling Hopeless
If someone goes so far as to talk about suicide, their feelings of despair are intense and there is a real chance that they will act on them. You must take them very seriously and act immediately to help. Don’t be afraid that bringing up the topic will make the person more likely to commit suicide. In reality, talking to a person about their suicidal feelings shows them that you care and allows them to release pent up negative emotions. It can save their life!
Talking about suicide and saying things like “I wish I was never born” or “You’d be better off without me” are obvious signs a person is thinking about killing themselves. There are other, less obvious, signs to watch for:
• talking, reading or writing about death
• withdrawal from friends and family – or , conversely, visiting and touching base with important people in their lives
• sleeping a lot, complaining about aches and pains
• neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
• using or abusing drugs and/or alcohol
• boredom, lack of interest, difficulty concentrating, doing poorly in school
• seeming happy and calm after a period of depression and turmoil (this could indicate a decision to go ahead with suicide)
Teens are particularly vulnerable to acting on their suicidal thoughts. They are struggling to develop their identities, they may be suffering at the hands of bullies, they may feel they don’t fit in, or they may think they have no control over their lives. They may also have not yet learned that situations can and do change, and that there are healthy ways they can cope with their problems and negative feelings.
Learn more about teen suicide before approaching your friend or family member – but do not delay. Check out these helpful sites:
Let them know they are not alone. Encourage them to talk about their negative feelings, without interrupting or judging what they say. Encourage them to write their feelings in a journal and make a list of what they can do to change their situation. Urge them to see a mental health professional. If you are the teen’s parent, make the appointment and take your child there. A professional can identify and treat the underlying mental health issues that have given rise to the suicidal feelings. It can get better.