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Protecting your child from the expanding risk of suicide
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Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth, and it's only getting worse. Here's what you can do. - photo by Gary and Joy Lundberg
Suicide among young people is on the rise. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is now the third leading cause of death for youth between ages 10 and 24. Some states even report it as the leading cause of death in this age group. It results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year. The top three methods used in suicides of young people include firearm (45%), suffocation (40%), and poisoning (8%).

Deaths resulting from suicide are only part of the problem. The CDC states, More young people survive suicide attempts than actually die. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 912 in public and private schools in the United States found that 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reported trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey.

It's obvious that suicide is becoming a serious problem with our youth.

The telltale signs

There are usually warning signs that let you know when your teen is struggling emotionally the kinds of struggles that lead to suicidal thoughts.

  • Depression. This is not simply a child having a bad day and feeling down. All children have those from time to time. This is about a child feeling depressed day after day a feeling of hopelessness. You cant seem to cheer him or her up.
  • Other suicides. When a fellow student commits suicide, it puts the thought into the minds of others.
  • Too much stress. Kids are under a lot of pressure in school and far too many pressures at home.
  • Involved in drug and alcohol abuse. When these abusive behaviors are present, likelihood of suicide increases.
  • Bullied at school or on social media. We hear continually about bullied kids being so hurt and ashamed that they finally cant deal with the hurt anymore.
When these factors are involved, it doesnt mean your child will commit suicide. It just means you need to pay attention, improve your relationship with your child or consider getting some professional help.

What parents can do

These reports are daunting, and parents may wonder what is to be done to stem this tide. No parent wants his child to die and most certainly not by suicide. Heres the good news. There are specific ways parents play a vital role in helping prevent their children from committing or attempting suicide. The following are the most powerful things a parent can do.

Create a strong family environment.

This is done several different ways:

  • Eat meals together as a family at least five times a week. This creates a safe place where family members can talk about whats going on in their lives, laugh and share their concerns.
  • Play together. Do fun things. Board games, ball games, bowling, picnics, camping anything fun and wholesome that brings the family together.
  • Visit relatives. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins bring a great deal of support and love into a childs life. Make this happen for your family.
Its reassuring to know that parents, siblings and loved ones care about you. This happens from continual association with each other in the home in a congenial atmosphere. This doesnt mean there wont be arguing at times. Thats normal. It just means you keep the family activities going, regardless. Remember to tell your kids you love them. That matters. They need to hear it often.

Keep a close eye on your child's behavior and demeanor. To prevent suicidal thoughts, be diligent in involving your child in family activities and religious experiences. These two traditions have proven to be highly effective in curtailing suicide. If suicidal signs persist, seek professional help. Its a fact that some suicides will happen even if parents do all they can to be there for their children. When this happens, parents who know they did what they could to save their children can, at least, find a measure of peace.

Together, Gary and Joy Lundberg author books on relationships. For more from the Lundbergs on improving communication, see "I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better."