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Teen Suicide Ideation and Treatment Options

Updated 29 March 2017 Written by Deborah QuinnClinically Reviewed by Sarah Fletcher, LPC, LAC

Recent Statistics on Suicide

Suicide rates have gone up steadily in the last decade, and it has become a widespread concern, especially among young people. The following statistics highlight how serious the risk is, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved.

4 out of 5 suicide attempts were preceded by clear warning signs, so if we recognize the warning signs and respond appropriately, many suicides can be prevented. Learn to recognize the signs, and reach out for support if you feel unsure.

Signs that a Teen or Young Adult may be a Suicide Risk

  • Suicide threats, or statements such as “I wish I were dead,” “I hate my life” etc.
  • Previous suicide attempts or self-harm
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Changes in quality of school work or decrease in academic performance
  • Severe Depression
  • Dramatic personality changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Making final arrangements by saying goodbye to people, giving away valued possessions, or talking about their funeral
  • Excessive risk-taking, with injuries or “close calls”
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

 

The list above is not comprehensive. If you feel concerned about your loved one, seek help immediately.  Call the national suicide prevention lifeline now 988, dial 911, or take your loved one to the nearest emergency room.

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Understanding Suicide

Suicide ideation and attempts are a sign of underlying issues. People inherently want to live and will fight to stay alive, so suicidal thoughts point to the amount of pain they are feeling. For teens and young adults, this is generally emotional pain that feels inescapable.

Their thought process is that ending their life is the only way to get out of their situation. This means that they are trying to solve the problem and this is key to understanding suicide. People contemplating suicide are generally ambivalent about it, which is why unsuccessful attempts are so common.

They aren’t excited about death, but just want their experience to end. Suicide is similar to drug use in the sense that it is an attempt to numb unpleasant emotions. Like drug and alcohol use, the best prevention lies in addressing the underlying issues.

Have an Open Conversation about Suicide

If you have noticed some of the signs mentioned above, talk to your child about suicide. If they already have suicidal ideation (they have thoughts of committing suicide), they likely feel very alone and hopeless.

Your ability to connect with them and provide the space for an open conversation will go a long way towards relieving their feelings. If they haven’t been thinking about suicide, use the opportunity to lay a foundation on the subject.

Ask your young adult or teen directly if they are having suicidal thoughts. If the answer is yes, ask:

  • How strong is your desire to act on those ideas? (on a scale of 1-10)
  • Do you have a plan for how you will kill yourself?
  • Do you have the means to carry out this plan?
  • What is your time frame for carrying out this plan?

 

These questions and any other details you gather will help get an idea of your child’s thought process. During this conversation, do your best to remain calm and supportive. If your loved one feels judged by your reactions, they are less likely to open up to you.

Allow space for your child to tell you what they are going through and what emotions they are experiencing. Avoid lecturing them, try instead to relate to their experience. Remember that they see suicide as a solution to their problems, so gaining a full understanding of what they are going through emotionally will help you get the appropriate care.

Take Action

If your child is suicidal, they should not be left alone and you should get help immediately. Don’t try to support someone who is suicidal on your own. Even if you doubt that your child will follow through, take it seriously and get them as much help as you can.

They are communicating that they need help and if you dismiss it, they may feel even more alone and thus more likely to carry out an attempt. If you are concerned about your child or anyone else, call the suicide prevention hotline: 988, dial 911, or take them to the nearest emergency room.

Professional Help for Teens Struggling with Depression, Suicidality, and Substance Use

In most cases, when a teen or young adult is struggling with suicidal ideation, they are often taken to an Emergency Room or a Psychiatric Hospital and placed on a 72-hour hold to be properly assessed and stabilized.

Following this typically short inpatient treatment, it is very important that you seek out longer-term support for your loved one to properly address any underlying mental health concerns that fueled the suicidal ideation.

Generally, these step-down treatment options include:

  • Long-Term Residential treatment to further stabilize and assess more complex mental health concerns
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) designed to treat suicide ideation and other co-occurring mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and addiction
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) to provide flexible outpatient treatment services for suicidal ideation and underlying co-occurring mental health concerns

Sandstone Care offers a continuum of mental health and substance use treatment services for teens and young adults in Colorado, Virginia, and Maryland.

Our integrative approach to care effectively treats underlying mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorders which often contribute to suicidal ideation and substance use.

Our highly credentialed clinical team includes psychiatrists (MDs) and licensed clinicians who specialized in treating mental health issues and substance use. Call us today at (888) 850-1890 for more information about how we may be able to support your loved one.

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