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When teen suicide hits close to home

Earlier this month, my high school kids woke to news on their Twitter feeds that a sophomore friend had committed suicide.

We’re all still shocked that this girl, who was so well liked and popular, had taken her own life. The thought that her parents are now without their daughter stuns me.

I’ve thought a lot about teen suicide in the last few years. Two of my kids have gone through stages of severe depression and they’ve said the words to me that caused great fear in my heart.

First, it was my son, who is on daily medication for a genetic disorder. At the time, we didn’t know the medication was causing him to have suicidal thoughts. He became severely depressed, withdrawn and sad, and shared with us that he didn’t know why he was alive, and that he never should have been born. I took immediate action and called the hospital’s emergency department that night after he went to bed.

The next day I took him to the ER to be evaluated, as instructed by the nurse on the phone. He did not get to come home for 10 days. My son and I stayed sequestered in the children’s hospital ER for two full days on “suicide watch” and then he was transferred to a psychiatric hospital. He was admitted and stayed there for a week until the doctors could get him on the right meds to “clear” his mind.

My son was clearly going through some struggles, and while in the end, his suicidal thoughts were completely medicine-related, I thank God I had the wherewithal to take him to get help when he started talking about not wanting to live.

When my daughter began showing signs of depression, it appeared differently. She withdrew from the family, had panic attacks, and would cry for no reason. Since she has an eating disorder, it was difficult to know how to deal with her depression. During an extreme panic attack when she couldn’t verbalize what was the matter other than saying she didn’t want to live, I took her straight to the ER. At the ER, my daughter was medicated, and someone from the crisis management team spoke to her.

In those moments of panic when I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know what my children were capable of doing, I knew I needed to find the safest place for them. In my heart, I didn’t really think either of my kids would do something to harm themselves, but what mother really believes their child is capable of suicide? If my children express the words, then I will take action to keep them safe.

I worry about the kids who don’t talk. That’s why it’s so important to ask your children how they are doing. Communicate with your children. WebMD lists the following as some warning signs that your teen might be considering suicide:

  • Making suicidal statements
  • Being preoccupied with death in conversation, writing, or drawing
  • Giving away belongings
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Having aggressive or hostile behavior

If your child displays any of these signs or if your teen is worried about a friend, don’t push your concerns aside. It’s better to ask if the person wants to talk or needs help than to have to attend a funeral of someone who has her whole life ahead of her.

If you suspect someone might be considering suicide, or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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