Parents, beware -- Being a teenager isn't easy
September 17, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (Sept. 17, 2013) -- Another summer has come and gone, and the start of a new school year is here. Parents and students are synchronizing alarm clocks, cramming school supplies into backpacks, and getting used to new routines and busy days.
This time of year serves as a reminder of the challenges of being a teenager. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons ages 10 to 24. Notably, the rate of suicide has continued to increase among adolescents in recent years. According to a recent large national survey (Youth Risk Behavior Survey), approximately one in every six high school students reported having seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and nearly one in every 12 reported attempting suicide one or more times.
Being a teenager isn't easy, as everyone who survived their teenage years knows. There are constant feeling of stress, confusion and self-doubt as well as pressure to succeed and pressure to fit in and feeling awkward. Not to mention, now there is social media to record and broadcast every awesome and embarrassing moment. For some teenagers, divorce or moving to a new community can be particularly challenging and may intensify feelings of self-doubt and stress. The changing landscape of being a teenager presents students and parents with many obstacles to navigate and cope with.
Adolescents from military families have a higher risk of social, emotional and behavioral problems according to a new report from the Academy of Pediatrics (Siegel and Davis, 2013). For some teens, suicide may appear to be a solution to the problems they face and the stress they feel.
Studies show that teenagers who have engaged in suicidal behavior are more likely to have a history of mental illness, substance abuse, prior suicidal behavior, easy access to firearms and/or low self-esteem than teens who have not engaged in suicidal behavior. These same studies show that teenagers who have not engaged in suicidal behavior are more likely to report family connectedness, reduced access to firearms, safe schools, academic achievement and high self-esteem.
Parents need to be aware of changes in their teen, especially dramatic changes in behavior or mood, a withdrawn attitude, or self-injuring behaviors (for example, cutting, risk-taking, drinking, illicit/prescription drug use). Teens should be encouraged to socialize with others and participate in extracurricular activities (for example, sports, art, writing, church, school). Parents should make every effort to actively engage their teen in a non-judgmental manner so it's clear the parent is willing to listen and is available to help with any ongoing issues or concerns.
If a teenager is thinking about suicide, it doesn't make them crazy or weird -- but they do need help dealing with the things that are bothering them. Parents who suspect their teenager is thinking about suicide should talk to them immediately. Don't be afraid to use the word "suicide." Ask your teen to talk about their feelings and listen carefully, try not to dismiss their problems or get angry. Also, be sure to seek medical/counseling assistance for your teen. Local resources in the Franconia Military Community include the Behavioral Health Clinic, chapel, school nurse or guidance counselor, and the school-based Adolescence Substance Abuse Counseling Service (ASACS). If you think your teen is in immediate danger, take him or her to the emergency room, call your local emergency number at 09802-83-114 or DSN 114, or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 09641-83-118 or DSN 118. Additional information and resources for parents and teens can be found online at www.yellowribbon.org.
Every suicide can be prevented, and even one suicide is too many.