Parent Resources: Suicide Signs and Prevention
A parent grieving over the loss of their child who took their own life can be devastating. Therefore, the signs of a child thinking of attempting suicide should be known. This is especially true for youth in the juvenile detention centers. Some of them feel the shame of their histories and other feel abandoned by families leaving them behind; this can make a child feel despair.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death of 15-24 year old’s in the United States. Youth in juvenile detention centers are three times more likely to commit suicide.
A child talking about themselves in a negative matter is a sign that they may be thinking of suicide. Such matters include:
Expressing they feel hopeless or purposeless
Expressing they feel like they are a burden to others
Expressing they feel trapped
Expressing they feel unbearable pain
The less subtle verbal expressions of suicide are:
Talking about how they wish to die or kill themselves
Non-verbal cues can also occur. They include:
Searching for ways to die
Looking for access to “lethal means” (online or physically)
Fits of rage
Alcohol and drugs increase the risk of suicide.
Suicides can also happen by impulse when dealing with a crisis in their lives.
Parents can reduce the means of suicide. A mean is defined as “the method that a suicidal person uses to self-inflict injury or death.” Means include overdosing on medication and using a firearm. It has been proven that keeping lethal means away from children is highly effective when it comes to preventing suicide.
Parents can protect their children from overdosing by locking medications in a safe place, properly getting rid of any medication that is no longer needed and only keeping safe dosages of medication.
Parents can protect their children from harming themselves with a firearm by locking up the weapon in a safe and locking the ammunition in a separate location, having a family or friend lock up the firearm for you and asking your local shooting club/local police precinct for temporary storage.
Be sure to also keep any pesticides out of reach. The amount of global suicides caused by pesticide self-poisoning is 20 percent.
Teens who deal with suicidal thoughts should not have to deal with them alone. Speaking with your teen “in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way” is a good way of making sure they open up about any lethal thoughts they can have. A couple of example questions from save.org are, “Do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?” or “Do you have a plan to kill yourself or take your life?”
What NOT To Do
If your teen manages to open up to you about their thoughts of suicide, there are important things to not do.
First, do not make them feel guilty about their thoughts. According to save.org, “your opinion of a person’s situation is irrelevant.” Let them know you are willing to work with them on it, and that they are right to feel their pain.
Second, do not keep any plans they have to take their own life a secret. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or you can also call 911. You can even tell a therapist and/or a doctor/medical professional.
Youth Suicide in Juvenile Facilities
The National Commission on Correctional Health Care recommends “that all juvenile facilities, regardless of size or type, develop and implement a comprehensive suicide prevention program that takes into consideration the unique characteristics of juvenile suicide risk in correctional settings.” Seven components are proposed for a successful program:
1. Staff Training in Suicide Prevention
Training for suicide prevention should apply to helping inmates in juvenile facilities.
2. Ongoing Identification of Risk
This means that evaluating juveniles should not be a one-time process but a continuous one. This applies to all juveniles.
Risks of suicide should be communicated to all who are involved. According to the NCCHC, this includes the arresting/transporting officers and correctional/direct care staff, facility staff (including medical/mental health staff) and the at-risk juvenile.
It is important to note that “half of all juvenile suicides occur among youth on room confinement status.” Most of the suicides that happen during room confinement happen during waking hours. Although room confinement is a disciplinary tactic for youth on bad behavior, the NCCHC recommends close observations and assessments by “qualified mental health personnel” and even alternative actions of discipline. Rooms should also be suicide-proof.
5. Levels of Monitoring
There are three types of monitoring for juveniles: constant observation is for at-risk juveniles and involves the juvenile to be supervised at all times and “may also be assessed as in need of psychiatric hospitalization”; intermediate observation is for moderate-risk juveniles and involves surveillance that “occurs at staggered intervals not to exceed 5 [five] minutes”; close observation is for low-risk juveniles and involves surveillance that “occurs at staggered intervals not to exceed 15 minutes.”
A proper prevention program should involve a plan that has “long-range goals” and evolves with the at-risk/suicidal youth as they improve. The plan should also have “intermittent follow-up” for those who appear stable.
7. Mortality and Morbidity Review
This review goes over all completed suicides and serious suicide attempts that require hospitalization and should be “conducted by a multidisciplinary team including representatives of both line and management correctional staff, as well as medical and mental health personnel.” The NCCHC also would like a psychological autopsy to go with this.
The NCCHC said this list “is not a comprehensive guide to suicide prevention for youth in correctional settings.” If you have a child in a juvenile facility and think they are at risk of suicide, check with the facility to see what they do for suicide prevention.
Freestyle Ministries knows the devastation a suicide can bring to friends and family. So we urge parents to take in this information to be able to save a child in need of help. Be sure to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911.