Since September is dedicated to preventing suicide, I decided to write this article for parents. Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal?  This concern has increased since the CDC no longer ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death and now rates it as the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old.  Furthermore, since the quarantine for the Coronavirus there has been a significant increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses.  As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal.  Additionally, before the quarantine, parents were worrying more about suicidal teenagers as we learned more about suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings due to survivors dealing with survivor guilt. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society.  As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they feel their teen is suicidal.  Parents are aware there is a teenage suicide epidemic, but have no idea what to do or how to get help.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family.  However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family too.  Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live their entire life with major medical complications.  They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own.  Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator.  Guns are one of the top three ways teenagers attempt suicide.  However, teenagers are not aware that guns jump when fired.  Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face.  The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal.  It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner.  It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal.  The most important step is don’t  be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling  suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal.  In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings.  Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation.  Therefore, you may save their life by asking, if they are feeling suicidal.

Another reason many parents do not ask their teenager about suicide is the negative stigma associated with suicide.  Often when someone dies of suicide the family will give another reason.  Many families also request suicide not be listed as the cause of death.  The Lighthouse Project conducted at Columbia University is attempting to remove this stigma.  The Project has also developed questions that family members, friends and first responders can ask a person who they think might be suicidal.  The questions have shown to be very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal and having the person to get help.  I am including the link to the Lighthouse Project so you can learn more about it and download the questions that are most appreciated for you, if you feel someone in your life maybe suicidal.  It is a very good list of questions and the research shows that the questions are very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |.

Bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed.  Make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers.  If you walk in on an attempt, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers.  For more information on his work or private practice visit his website or Facebook page