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 or guilty.
- 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:
- Call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department.
- 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/.
How else can parents help?
Access mental health services for your child.
Contact Adolescent Health at Children’s Minnesota at 612-813-6107, or ask your child’s primary care provider for a mental health referral.
Children’s also services a variety of conditions in the Behavior Health Program, and has the experts needed to help parents understand too.
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. 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. A positive relationship with a parent helps strengthen a child’s resilience against depression.