One of the more difficult challenges of parenting is realizing that you don’t always know what your children are thinking and feeling. You may be aware that suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescence, but you can’t imagine your child might become one of those statistics. When do the normal ups and downs of adolescence become something to worry about? How can you know if suicide is a risk for your family? And if you are worried about it, what can you do?
If you find yourself asking some of these questions, you’re not alone. Although youth suicide is a relatively rare phenomenon, thoughts of suicide are not. One national study, for example, found that almost 20% of high school students admitted to thinking about suicide.
Many parents may feel at a loss. Feelings can be difficult subjects to discuss under the best of circumstances, so how in the world do you ask about feelings related to suicide?
The first step is to learn about the factors that can put a teen at risk for suicide. There are lots of sites that list risk factors; spend some time reading them—the more you know, the better you’ll be prepared for understanding what can put your child at risk.