Life stressors such as disrupted routines, separation from their friends, worries about the pandemic, and political unrest, can intensify feelings of stress, depression, and other mental health challenges for teens and tweens. All of these things can quickly overwhelm them.

According to the Center for Adolescent Medicine, extroverted teens, those who tend to be happier around people, maybe having a more challenging time after a year of social distancing and disrupted routines during quarantine. On the other hand, introverted teens may be experiencing a sense of calm or relief during this time. Many teens are experiencing tech fatigue. Many teens are struggling regardless of which traits your teens exhibit.

It can be challenging for your teens to open up about the issues they face. Some find it challenging to talk about their mental health or thoughts of suicide with their parents. The Mayo Clinic reminds us that many teens who consider suicide have challenges coping with the stresses in their lives, and they are unable to see that they can get through these stressful times and thrive. 

If you suspect that your teen might be thinking about suicide, or is showing signs of distress, talk to him or her immediately. Opening lines of communication so you can better understand what your son or daughter is going through is vital. Don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide.” Talking about suicide won't plant ideas in their head. 

There is no perfect way to start a conversation with them, but think about what might work best for your child. For example, is it easier to talk while driving or going for a walk? Would your teen find it easier to talk out of the house with no interruptions? Talking about these thoughts and feelings can help your teen understand that he or she isn’t alone.

What should you say?

  • Express your support and tell your teen you are concerned.

You don’t seem like yourself, and I’ve noticed some changes in you lately, or “can you tell me what’s going on?

  • Ask for some background. Sit with your teen and try to see the situation from his or her perspective.

How long have you been feeling like this or having these issues?

  • Check your bias at the door and listen. It’s not a time to try and fix the problems.

Can you tell me about how you are feeling now?

  • Ask the questions, listen carefully, and don’t judge.

Are you having thoughts about hurting yourself?

Are you thinking about or have you thought about killing yourself?

Take your child seriously. If your child confides thoughts of suicide, believe them and get help. If you discover your teen has planned to carry out their suicide or has recently attempted suicide, act immediately. They need to be evaluated by a qualified mental health professional. Do not leave your child alone. Remain by his or her side until he or she is safe. If the threat is imminent, call 911 or go to the emergency room. Make sure all potentially lethal means (firearms, alcohol, and medications) are stored safely. Restricting access to lethal means can put time and space between someone experiencing a crisis and the means they may consider using to harm themselves. 

What resources are available if my child does not need emergency care?

Remember, you are not alone. Your installation and community have resources available:

Prevention resources are locally available. National resources are available 24/7 through the DoD SafeHelpLine at 877-995-5247, or safehelpine.org. With support and resources, we can ensure our teens navigate through life’s stressors without thoughts of suicide.