Parents of adolescents know the teen years can be accompanied by a host of fears, including the prospect of their child becoming suicidal. While the subject is terrifying, moms and dads should know that suicide is preventable and help is here.
Treatment for teens with suicidal thoughts is available at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH), located on the hospital campus at 901 W. Kirchhoff Road in Arlington Heights. Treatment includes group and individual therapy, family sessions and care from psychiatrists.
Studies reveal that suicide is on the minds of a number of teens. Nationally, about 17 percent of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year, according to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while 13.6 percent made a suicide plan and 7.4 percent attempted suicide one or more times.
A separate study showed 11.4 percent of adolescents (ages 12-17) experienced a major depressive episode, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
One reason kids are filled with anxiety and depression these days is a lack of resilience, according to Lauren Eagle, Linden Oaks at NCH Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and Case Manager for Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatric Services.
"Young people are taught to seek the perfect situation and not nearly enough to accept and adapt," according to an article she cites in Psychology Today. "That kind of adapting is called resilience. It is the habit and skill of being willing and able to live with conditions that can't or shouldn't be changed."
Karen Becker, LCPC, Case Manager for Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatric Services at Linden Oaks at NCH says, "Other problems include increased hormonal, mental and physical changes that occur during puberty, the influence of social media and cyberbullying, increasing academic pressures and growing fears about national and world events including terrorism, mass shootings, climate change, social issues and socioeconomic pressures."
A formal evaluation with a mental health professional might be in order if a child's issues seem fairly severe and if attempts to help at school, in the community or at home are unsuccessful, Eagle says.
Perhaps the most important question is, "How much distress is your child's problem causing you, the child, or other members of the family?" Eagle says, adding that signs a youngster needs help include troublesome behavior that persists without any indication that it will be outgrown, intense behavior that causes alarm, and extreme deviations from age-appropriate behaviors.
"Make sure any and all threats or warnings are taken seriously," Eagle says. "If somebody says, 'I'm suicidal,’ don't wait to see if they really are."
Warning signs of a potential psychiatric illness include if a child:
- Has drastic changes in his or her behavior or personality.
- Has been using drugs or alcohol.
- Has been very sad or withdrawn for two or more weeks.
- Has talked about, attempted or made plans to commit suicide.
Attempts at self-injury or threats of suicide, violent behaviors or severe withdrawal resulting in an inability to carry on normal routines must be regarded as emergencies for which parents should seek immediate attention through a mental health or medical clinic, mental health hotline or crisis center, Eagle says.
Learn more about Adolescent Services offered at NCH through Linden Oaks. Call 847-HEALING or visit nch.org/behavioral health.
More on the topic:
Suicide is preventable
Why teens are anxious
More on warning signs
What it means to be resilient