Teen Suicide: Recognizing the Risk and Getting Help

If the results of a recent study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are any indication, recognizing – and managing – your teen’s depression is more critical than ever before.

The study indicates that teen suicide rates rose significantly between 1990 and 2004, with rates for girls 10-14 and 15-19 and boys 15-19 rising the most dramatically. And while a number of factors may have contributed to the increase, it’s an indication that the risk factors for depressed adolescent girls and boys are greater than ever before.

As a parent, identifying your child’s risk factors and symptoms – then getting them the treatment they need – is the most important thing you can do.

Is Your Teen at Risk for Suicide?
While there is no precise list of symptoms that predicts a teen’s likelihood of suicide, there are a number of factors that could indicate whether or not he/she is at risk. If your teen has been struggling with any of the following factors – or you notice any changes in their social and family relationships or state of mind – it’s essential to get your child the help they need before any of these factors get out of control:

  • Divorce or family problems
  • Disciplinary/Behavioral problems
  • Academic struggle
  • Mental health conditions such as depression or bi-polar disorder
  • Drug and/or alcohol dependency or abuse

Getting Help for a Depressed Teen

If your adolescent is experiencing any academic, behavioral, emotional, social or substance abuse problems, getting them support and treatment can make all the difference in their ability to become healthy, responsible adults. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available for treating struggling adolescents, from talk therapy and counseling to prescription medication.

If you believe your child is genuinely at risk, however, a therapeutic boarding school may offer the best and most effective treatment alternative.

Tailored to meet the needs of emotionally troubled teens – especially those dealing with depression, family or social problems, behavioral issues and/or academic difficulties – therapeutic boarding schools can help provide the professional medical and psychological guidance your teen needs to make a healthy recovery. Equally important, the boarding environment also ensures teens receives consistent, around-the-clock care through some of the most critical times in their lives.

Does My Teen Need Medication?
You might have heard about recent “black box warnings” on prescription antidepressants for adolescents highlighting an increased risk of suicide for teens on these medications.

The labels are intended to alert parents, but they don’t mean you should delay or resist getting help for your teen. Many clinicians believe one reason that teen suicide rates have climbed is due to an overreaction to these warnings. The labels do mean that it’s important to work closely with your teen’s medical professionals – and to keep a close eye on their behavior while they are on the antidepressant. It’s also essential that your child work regularly with an adolescent therapist and/or psychiatrist in addition to taking the medication.

While you need to take the advice of your child’s doctors and counselors seriously, if you’re not completely comfortable placing your teen on an antidepressant, you may want to work with their medical professionals to explore alternative therapies first.

The Bottom Line

If your teen shows any of the risk factors for depression – or suicide – getting them the help they need is absolutely essential. Finding the right combination of counseling, medication and guidance – or even a full-time therapeutic boarding program – could help them make the transition from troubled teen to thriving young adult.

*Suicide Trends Among Youths and Young Adults Aged 10-24 Years – United States, 1990-2004, Center for Disease Control Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.