Teens and Suicide: How to help your teenager from making the deadly decision

Teens and Suicides:  How to help your teenager from making the deadly decision

Currently in the Denver Metro area, some high schools have had to deal with the deaths of their students’ by suicide.  Last year it was the high school that I graduated from and that my nephew attends.  Every year we hear about children and adolescents ending their lives.  These are tragic events and something very difficult for teachers, students, and parents to understand.  For so many adults we may hear about a teenager who commits suicide and feel completely hopeless about the situation.  We don’t understand what could drive a child to believe their life is awful and that it will never improve so they are better off dead.  However, having a better understanding of the adolescent brain provides a little bit more understanding of how a teenager could have difficulty seeing life differently than it is right now.  Our brains are still developing when we are in our teens and some of the last parts that develop are those that help us with problem solving (being able to think of options when something isn’t working), impulse control (or the ability to wait and be patient) and the ability to completely understand the finality of death and the consequences of their decisions.

Many times kids who commit or attempt suicide have planted some “clues” to their thoughts.  I encourage parents, teachers, and peers to take all threats or talk about suicide or ending their life as a serious threat.  It is important that if you hear someone talking about how life would be better without them, no one would miss them if they were gone, or that they don’t want to be around anymore, you immediately get the person professional help to assess their safety.  Other warnings signs can include the adolescent no longer caring about grades, sports, or other things that used to be important to them.  Giving away their possessions or making a will, writing a suicide note, suddenly becoming less anxious or depressed after being sad, depressed, or anxious for several days or weeks.  They may engage in cutting themselves or other harmful behaviors.  At times they may start to isolate from friends and family and no longer want to spend time away from the home. 

If you notice any of these signs in your teenager please talk to him/her and seek professional help.  It is so important for you to be able to let your child know that you love them, you are worried about them, and you want them to be happy.  A book that I have read and shared with some families has been helpful in providing more understanding into how our brain can trick us into thinking we would be better off dead.  The book is called “Suicide- The Forever Decision” by Paul Quinnett.  Other resources include the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and in the Denver Metro area you can call the Metro Crisis Hotline at 1-888-885-1222.  You can also take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room for a safety assessment and in the event you think your child may has attempted suicide or you are unable to safely transport him/her to the hospital, call 911.  


Trusted Therapy, Inc

Tonya McFarland, PsyD

1030 Johnson Rd, 323

Golden, CO  80401