Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people in Minnesota. One in five teens seriously considers suicide every year. Most often, teens who die by suicide have depression or other mental health disorders.
Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss, but Dr. Julie Erickson, LP, PhD, shares what parents need to know about depression and suicide.
Suicide is not always planned. Situations such as a fight with a parent or friend, a breakup, an unintended pregnancy, being outed as LGBTQ, or victimized in any way can act as a final straw for someone with depression. Below are some of the warning signs that parents should look out for:
- Changing personality with increased sadness, anger or withdrawal.
- Talking about suicide, “going away” or death in general.
- Giving away possessions or referring to things they “won’t be needing.”
- Mentioning they feel hopeless, guilty or a burden to loved ones.
- Pulling away from friends or family.
- Losing the desire to go out or take part in activities they usually enjoy.
- Having trouble concentrating or thinking clearly.
- Experiencing changes in sleeping or eating habits.
- Engaging in self-destructive behavior like cutting, or using alcohol and drugs.
- Feeling worthless or having low self-esteem.
Severe depression is a medical emergency
People who are extremely depressed may think about hurting themselves and need help as soon as possible. The following confidential resources are available to help:
- For immediate danger or risk of harm, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department.
- For a suicide, mental health or substance abuse crisis, text or call the new mental health crisis support line at 9-8-8.
- Use a Crisis Text Line. This is a free 24/7 support line. Text “HOME” to 741-741 at any time, about any type of crisis. Learn more online at crisistextline.org.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
- The JED Foundation has additional resources available online: https://www.jedfoundation.org/.
- Trans Lifeline: Call 1-877-565-8860·
- The Trevor Project (LGBTQ+) Helpline: Call 1-866-4UTREVOR (1-866-488-7386), chat online, or text START to 678-678.
How else can parents help?
Access mental health services for your child.
Ask your child’s primary care provider for a mental health referral and they can connect you with a mental health specialist right in your primary care clinic through our innovative integrated behavioral health program. Children’s Minnesota also services a variety of conditions in the mental health program, and has the experts needed to help parents understand too.
Other options at Children’s Minnesota:
- Partial hospitalization programs.
- Our first inpatient mental health center in St. Paul (opening in 2022).
Reduce access to lethal means
- If there are firearms in the home, it is safest to remove them from the home until the child’s mental health crisis has improved. Second best option is to lock them very securely.
- Don’t keep lethal doses of medications at home. Dispose of excess medication safely, consult your pharmacist for options. Securely lock remaining medications at home using, for example, a locked toolbox or safe.
- Limit access and quantities of alcohol in the home, as it may be used to engage in suicidal behavior and contribute to lethal outcome of drug overdose.
Ensure your child eats nutritious foods, gets enough sleep, and gets daily physical activity.
These have positive effects on mood.
Spend time with your child doing things you both can enjoy.
Go for a walk, play a game, cook, make a craft, or watch a funny movie. Encourage your teen to evaluate and consider limiting their use of social media. Gently encouraging positive emotions and moods can slowly help to overcome the depressed moods that are part of depression.
Be patient and kind.
When depression causes kids and teens to act grumpy and irritable, it’s easy for parents to become frustrated or angry. Remind yourself that these moods are part of depression, not intentional disrespect. Avoid arguing or using harsh words, and try to stay patient and understanding. Validate your child’s feelings while assuring them by seeking professional support. Parents need to take care of themselves in order to be a strong source of support for their struggling child. A positive relationship with a parent helps strengthen a child’s resilience against depression.