As summer winds down and a school year starts, this should be a time that parents use to continue to learn more about their children’s behaviors and mental frame of mind. It is especially important when children enter their adolescent (teenage) years.
Studies have shown that adolescents face a number of challenges that present pressures during this time of their lives. These pressures increase their risk for self harm and even suicide and may include a number of negative life events such as; parental separation or divorce, parental death, drug or alcohol misuse, bullying, low self esteem, interpersonal difficulties, poor social problem solving skills or even just a general sense of hopelessness. These can become overpowering to the adolescent and as parents the sooner we recognize these issues, the more likely we will have a positive and successful outcome.
Self harm and suicide are major public health problems in adolescents, with rates of self harm being high in the teenage years and suicide being the second most common cause of death in young people worldwide. Although suicide is uncommon in adolescents compared with non-fatal self harm, it is always a tragic outcome and prevention should be paramount not only in the parent’s mind, but our community as a whole. Take the time to not only listen, but to look for any signs of destructive behavior. Recognize that our children’s behavior cannot always be attributed to “they are changing, just becoming teenagers”. Change may be for the better, but it may also indicate a deeper problem that will require parental intervention.
If you suspect your adolescent is facing personal issues that they are not equipped to deal with, start an open and caring discussion that focuses on listening skills with no fault placed on anyone’s shoulders. Reach out to your child with compassion and listen. Their problems may seem small to you, but at this point in their lives they are learning to deal with issues we may find insignificant, but they find important. Seek solutions to their problems with a supportive and mutual understanding of the issue. If you feel it goes beyond your expertise as a parent, find professionals who can help.
Make your children a priority in your life not only at this time, but throughout their lives. Parenting is a 24/7 labor of love and they deserve all the help we can give them.
For further information consider researching the Mental Health First Aid Training for Youth at http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org or the National Alliance on Mental Illness at http://www.nami.org/.
Elkhart County Suicide Prevention Coalition