There are alarming increases in self-injurious behaviors and suicide attempts by teenagers. Today we will attempt to give an overview of the issues and what parents can do to protect their kids. We will show how self-harming behaviors like cutting and suicide attempts are related because they both reflect attempts by teens to cope with emotional overload through self destructive choices.
However, cutting is not a gateway to suicide. Cutters do not articulate that they want to die rather that is their attempt to cope with emotions that they can not express. We share the words of a former cutter who describes how, “Cutting helps relieves stress, to be able to feel something, or to have control.” Shockingly a study in 2006 found that 1 in 5 students at two Ivy League schools say that have purposely injured themselves. These numbers are consistent with what counselors at high schools and middle schools report.
In our discussion about teen suicides we attempt to bust some common myths about teen suicide and offer parents and caregivers concrete suggestions on what they need to look for. One common myth is that talking about suicide with depressed teens may prompt them to kill themselves. This is not true. Actually, most adolescents attempt suicide to call attention to the emotional pain which they are suffering. They want to live. If they receive the help they are asking for they have no need to attempt suicide again. Only one percent of all survivors of suicide attempts kill themselves within one year, only 10 percent within ten years.
We discuss the steps parents can take to protect your children/teens. Most importantly, know your child. Be aware of changes in their moods and plans. Validate what you see and hear before problem solving. Keep the relationship even when disciplining and seek help whenever possible.
We attempt to connect the dots between self-injurious behaviors and teen suicide and show how both are need fulfilling choices. We conclude with some ideas about what is missing in our kids lives and why does life seem so stressful to today’s teens.