Suicide is such an uncomfortable topic,, but one that absolutely must be talked about more openly. There exists a stigma surrounding suicide that talking about it would further encourage the behavior, but in most cases there were conversations and warning signs that were not addressed before the tragedy occurred. As a teen, suicide is an unfortunate shadow that can linger on the edges of their adolescent experience. Addressing suicide as a teen begins where almost everything else is focused – with friends.
Noticing Suicidal Trends in Friends
Part of being a modern teen is watching for and identifying suicidal behaviors and trends in your friends and classmates. Suicide is a hot topic, and a conversation point for teens at some point in their development, so it’s important that you are aware of what suicide looks like for kids your age. Without judgement or action, begin looking for and noticing the following suicidal trends you see in your friends, your peers, or even on TV:
- Talking about death or suicide
- Phrases like “I just want to die.” “I don’t want to be here anymore.” “Nothing matters.”
- Reckless or dangerous behavior like drug use, violence, risk-taking, or sexual promiscuity
- Sudden withdrawal
- Lack of interest in things they once liked
- Self-destructive or sabotaging behavior
What to Do
Once you notice these behaviors in your friends, classmates, or family members – what can you do? You may find yourself making excuses or explanations for them, even wondering if they are just doing it for the attention. The very first thing you should do is try to suspend these thoughts. If they are truly suicidal it is important that you not minimize their behavior, and if you’re right about other explanations then a little extra care can only help. Next it may be helpful to reach out to them first. Express love and concern, then give them space to talk to you if they need to.
Eventually you may need to talk to an adult or report their suicidal behavior for their own safety. If you notice more than one of the above suicidal trends, if they talk openly about taking their own life, or if you simply have a really bad feeling about them – report it as soon as possible. Talk to a school counselor or their parents if possible. If you’re worried about repercussions, an anonymous email or note can get across the message without any blame attached to you.
It Can’t Hurt
Talking to your friends or expressing concern can’t hurt. Neither can reporting suicidal trends to parents, teachers, or school counselors. Don’t be afraid to let someone know about your friend’s struggles, because it can help them get the assistance they need. There are treatment programs and counseling that can help them feel happy and healthy again, and you may be saving their life. When in doubt – report with love.