Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens 15 to 19 years old in Kentucky, yet with greater awareness by parents, teachers, peers, and communities, it can be prevented.
“Youth suicides differ from adult suicides in that they are often ‘spur of the moment’ actions with no prior planning,” according to Dr. Hatim Omar, chief of the University of Kentucky Division of Adolescent Medicine.
“This is why it is important to talk to teens about suicide even when they show no signs of contemplating it,” says Omar.
Parents should talk to their children early, to let them know that suicide isn’t the solution to even the worst life situations.
“For teens, it is very important to have strong family connections as well as a feeling of being useful,” says Omar.
Risk factors include depression and other mental disorders; family history of mental disorder or substance abuse; family history of suicide; family violence or abuse; firearms in the home; and exposure to suicidal behavior of others (which may spark “copycat” suicides).
Signs may include talking or joking about suicide; saying things like “I wish I could disappear” or “There’s no way out”; engaging in reckless behavior; giving away prized possessions; and saying goodbye to family and friends.
“Don’t be afraid that by talking to your teen you will ‘put ideas into their head.'” Teens need to know that they can connect with adults when they need guidance and support, as asking for help is the skill that will best protect them from suicide.
• Parents should know the risk factors for and warning signs of suicidal impulses.
• If you fear a teen is suicidal, do not leave them alone. Remove means of suicide such as weapons and pills.
• If a child, teen, or adult is in a crisis and needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). All calls are confidential.
• Dying to Be Free is a guide for after suicide, but highly recommended reading to learn the signs before suicide.
• Online at www.suicidology.org, search “Kentucky support groups.”