Teen Suicide- Signs & Solutions

59640109-teen-suicide“The most authentic things about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”  -Ben Okri

When a teen takes their own life, it hits my heart very hard.  Teens should feel like the world is their oyster with endless possibilities in front of them.  Perhaps they’ll get married and have kids, travel the world, become a teacher or an international spy, lead a simple farm life, or live in a bustling city.  Emotions, decisions, and self-discovery can sometimes be overwhelming for teens, though.  They feel alone and isolated despite parents and friends who love them and care about them.  Why do they choose ending their life rather than continuing to fight the fight?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 10-14 year olds.  Let’s do our best to prevent these needless deaths by getting the facts.  Here are some signs to look for that could indicate suicide.

  • Hopelessness
  • Talking about suicide
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame
  • Fascination with death
  • Decline in schoolwork
  • Withdrawing from social circle/family
  • Saying goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Increased drug or alcohol use, general reckless behavior
  • Sense of calm after a long period of the above behaviors

Now that we know what to look for, what do we do?

  • Speak to the person directly if you know them well.  Let them know that you have noticed that they seem very sad or that they have noticed they have been pretty down lately.
  • Ask them if something has happened to them that made them sad or upset.
  • Let them know that you are there for them.
  • Help them call into a suicide hotline
  • Remind them that things will get better and that feelings change from day to day.
  • Have them promise you that if they feel like committing suicide, that they will call you or another designated person
  • If you don’t know the person well, reach out to their parents, friends, or to school personnel.  Give them as much information as possible including the warning signs that you have noticed.
  • Remind yourself that you are going to do what you can, but that you are not in charge or responsible for this person’s ultimate decisions

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or feeling extremely depressed, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-784-2433 or you can chat at crisischat.org.

Please know that you matter and that you are important.

Sheri, Teen Wise


Mistakes Shape Us, NOT Define Us

All of us make mistakes.  We are not defined by them but rather shaped by them.  Teens are at a time in their lives when they will make lots of mistakes.  Science has shown that the brain chemistry and barin structure of teens is going through a major shakeup particularly in the frontal lobe.  The frontal lobe is the primary decision-making center.  No wonder they make their fair share of mistakes!  On top of that, they are starting to get a taste of independence.  They are now  making more decisions which naturally means there will be more mistakes.

What we do to rectify the mistakes we make is what defines us.  Let’s say our teen fails a math test miserably because he decides to play video games rather than study.  Instead of blaming the teacher or making excuses, he can own up to his poor choice.  From there, he can talk to his teacher, apologize, and ask if there is any way to retake the test or get extra credit.  Now he has gone from a seemingly irresponsible teen to a teen who cares about his academics and takes charge.  A more serious example is a teen who decides to have relations with a boy before she is ready.  She might then feel ashamed and maybe helpless.  She might even feel like she no longer has the right to say no to future sexual advances.  She must realize that she still has the power of choice.  She can say to herself “I made the wrong choice and I will not do it again until I am ready.”

Owning up to mistakes and making sure our next decision is a good one is not always easy. We all make mistakes, but we all have the power and the right to move past them.  The next time a teen in your life makes a major mistake, sit down with her and figure out what she has learned from her mistake and what she will do to avoid it in the future.  There is a beautiful song called “You are More” by Tenth Avenue North.  When you have a chance, listen to it [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J3M7uVjwI8].  For now, here is a taste of the lyrics.  This is a religious song, but everyone can appreciate the underlying theme of forgiveness and moving past mistakes.

There’s a girl in the corner,

With tear stains in her eyes,

From the places she’s wandered,

And the shame she can’t hide,

She says, “How did I get here?”,

I’m not who I once was. 

And I’m crippled by the fear

that I’ve fallen too far to love.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made.

You are more than the sum of your mistakes.

You are more than the problems you create.

You’ve been remade.

         -Tenth Avenue North