According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide among young adults ages 15 to 24 has become the second-leading cause of death in the United States. Sadly, Arizona’s suicide rate for young adults is higher than the national average of 17.1 deaths per 100,000 people. September is Teen Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office wants to help raise awareness by sharing warning signs parents should be on the lookout for when it comes to teen suicide.
Many factors can contribute to suicide, and each case is unique. However, certain conditions can increase the risk of suicide among young adults. Risk factors, including mental health and substance abuse disorders, have the most significant influence, followed by environmental factors such as stressful living conditions and impactful life events. Access to firearms also increases the risk of intentional self-harm, with half of all teen suicides involving guns. Compared to females, males have a disproportionately high suicide rate, and in Arizona, American Indian communities also have a excessively higher suicide rate than other ethnic groups.
What can parents do?
As a parent, it can be difficult to even think about having a conversation with their teen about suicide and self-harm. However, open communication is necessary to be seen as a trusted adult in a teen’s life and provide support when needed. Most teens will give warning signs to a loved one before they attempt to commit suicide. Parents need to know the warning signs so their teens can get the help they need.
- Withdrawal and Isolation: Pay close attention if your teen is no longer interested in hanging out with friends, school, or other activities they previously enjoyed doing. Express your concern and establish yourself as a source of support.
- Talk of Hopelessness: Proactively listen to what your teen is sharing with you and continually express your support and love. Avoid comments that diminish their experience as this could affect future communication and reaffirm negative thoughts.
- Researching Ways to Harm Themselves: Even though it may be difficult, ask questions about why they feel this way. Make sure to keep those in your teen’s life informed of their situation, including family, friends, teachers, coaches, counselors, and doctors.
As adults, it can be easy to minimize a teen’s struggle compared to our own, but it’s important to remember that a painful event, loss, or change is just as significant to them. Regardless of age, warning signs about suicide should not be brushed aside but taken seriously. It can be difficult for teens to understand or believe that they can feel better and that situations can improve, which is why having the support of a parent can make a substantial difference.
If you or someone you know needs support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). For teen advocates, call Teen Lifeline 1-800-248-8336 (TEEN).
For more information about how to provide support for your teen visit, TeenLifeline.org/teen-topics/teen/