In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, two studies have been released showing an alarming rise in teen suicide. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds. The only two things that cause more death among teenagers are accidents (usually car accidents) and homicide. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 14.  The study just released in a JAMA publication revealed that the suicide rate among girls ages 10 to 14 has been increasing faster than boys in the same age group. An expert interviewed on NPR about the new study suggested that girls are more often cyberbullied.

In Washington, the annual “Healthy Youth Survey” was recently posted revealing an increase in the number of Washington youth who report feeling so sad or hopeless they stopped a usual activity or seriously considered suicide in the past year.  The survey also showed a rise in the number of students who reported feeling anxious, nervous or on edge or not being able to stop worrying.

Based on the statewide survey, conducted in every school district, a typical 10th grade classroom of 29 students would include about:

  • 10 students who said they felt nervous, anxious or on edge or couldn’t stop or control worrying in the last two weeks

  • 12 students who have felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or longer in the past year

  • Three students who attempted suicide in the past year

For parents going through divorce, they should be aware that life changing events and problems with the parent-child relationship are two of the high risk factors.  Other key factors include major behavioral health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, substance abuse, child abuse, neglect or trauma, bullying by peers, death of a close friend or relative, school or legal problems. The Washington Health department emphasizes that adults and peers can help students in distress by helping young people feel connected to a support network and by helping them learn skills to cope with the challenges they face.

The Department of Health report includes numerous links to essential resources related to warning signs, coping skills, safety plans, and other effective strategies.

The Department of Health suggests very specific ways for parents to help their kids, such as:

  1. Bond with them: Love them unconditionally, tell them you value them, and stay involved in their lives.

  2. Talk with teens about their feelings and show you care. Listen to their point of view. Suicidal thinking often comes from a wish to end psychological pain.

  3. Help teens learn effective coping strategies and resiliency skills to deal with stress, expectations of others, relationship problems, and challenging life events.

  4. Have an evening as a family where everyone creates their own mental health safety plans, even before a crisis.

  5. Learn about warning signs and where to get help; you don’t need to handle this alone.

  6. Ask: “Are you thinking about suicide?” Don’t be afraid that talking about it will give them the idea. If you’ve observed any warning signs, chances are they’re already thinking about it.

  7. If you own a firearm, keep it secured where a teen could not access it. Lock up medications they shouldn’t have access to.

 

The Washington School Safety Center provides the following signs that should lead you to take immediate action:  

  1. Talking or writing about suicide or death

  2. Giving direct verbal cues, such as "I wish I were dead" and "I’m going to end it all"

  3. Giving less direct verbal cues, such as "You will be better off without me," "What’s the point of living?", "Soon you won’t have to worry about me," and "Who cares if I’m dead, anyway?"

  4. Isolating themselves from friends and family

  5. Expressing the belief that life is meaningless

  6. Giving away prized possessions

  7. Exhibiting a sudden and unexplained improvement in mood after being depressed or withdrawn

  8. Neglecting his or her appearance and hygiene

  9. Dropping out of school or social, athletic, and/or community activities

  10. Obtaining a weapon (such as a firearm) or another means of hurting themselves (such as prescription medications)

Washington Family Law Attorneys Are Here To Help

The family law attorneys at Molly B. Kenny, LLC, know that raising teenagers in no easy task, and the added stress of a divorce in the family can be challenging.  In addition to the excellent resources provided by the Department of Health, download a free copy of the eBook, written by Attorney Molly B. Kenny which discusses the different theories and stereotypes surrounding teens of divorce and shares information and resources to help you connect with your children, and guide them into a successful adulthood.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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