As a parent of a young adult and a teenager, I have read with consternation and increasing upset of the teenage suicides, a major problem that concerns our youth. I have always advised my children “to come to me, irrespective of how insurmountable a situation or problem may seem to be.” No matter what it is, it can be solved. I often good-naturedly piggyback that with advice regarding their bodies that may sound as “oversharing”. My children grew up with these words, “just because you have it, does not mean, that you have to use it.” As with everything in life, there is a time and a place for everything. The trick is not to rush into anything rash, especially given the rate of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
This morning’s Whatsapp “RIP” status of a youngster who committed suicide filled me with sadness. This is not meant as a wordy essay but a heart to heart, as parents, sisters, brothers, friends and family members, we need to look out for these warning signs. We need to suss out the signs, communicate and respond without haste A warning sign does not mean your child will attempt suicide, but do not ignore warning signs. Depression is often the leading cause.
Suicide seems to be the only option to “show” parents.
ALL parents, somewhere and at some-time in this world, has had to deal with the pressures of the economy, political climate, crime and employment issues. Needless to say “stress” is a common word. Being overwhelmed is often a constant emotion. If as adults and parent, we feel that way, consider how our teenage children feel with their school, image and peer pressures. Some of our children inherit their parents stress. Teens are living in very pressurised, materialistic times and experience major emotional changes. Hence the need for :
“World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is awareness day observed on 10 September every year, in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides, with various activities around the world since 2003. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), to host World Suicide Prevention Day.
What to Look for :
- Previous suicide attempts;
- Mental health problems;
- Loss of a parent or close relationship;
- Changes in behaviour. Sadness, exhaustion;
- Family toxicity;
- Family history of depression or suicide;
- Family conflict;
- Poor family support system;
- Bullying at school, cyber bullying (both which needs to be reported);
- Change in hygiene habits, apathy;
- Changed sleeping patterns, self-medicating to facilitate sleep;
- Extreme weight-loss, or noted weight gain;
- Self-harming, cuttings on hands;
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness;
- Negative responses with regard to gender identification when “coming out”;
- Unrealistic expectations, “measuring”/favouring one child over the other.
What to do :
- Run Suicide Awareness Campaigns at colleges, school, libraries.
- Get your local minister involved with a youth group.
- Turn the tables around. Let social media not be the enemy. Use social media to create awareness.
- Encourage teenagers and children to talk to a teacher, family member but ideally, the parent. Parents need to cultivate a good relationship, boundaries included with their children. Children respect and need guidelines and discipline. Who but parents know their children best?!
- Ensure that the family support is unshakeable.
- Get involved in “Big Brother” programmes.
- Mentor someone in need.
- DO NOT leave weapons like guns unattended or out of a safe.
- Get children involved in culture and religious activities. Educate them to live properly, beginning with prayer and manners.
- Remember that “idle minds are the devils workshop”. Too much time on their hands? Get them involved in extra-curricular activities like dance or tutoring. Encourage their sense of worth.
Advice for Parents :
- Knowledge is power. Take the time to brush up on the facts of suicide.
- Actively listen to children, even when they are not speaking. Develop radar. Mind their body language.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate, but in a loving and non-judgemental manner. Put yourselves in their shoes, they are “Little People” after all.
- Know your children’s circle. Who and why do they message. Is it just platonic, centred on school activities, sexual?
- Restrict technological devices.
- Limit technological devices.
- Block and ban certain sites on your computer or television.
- Make the time. Make it Quality Time.
- Make sure that the home is a physically and emotionally safe environment. Children bandied about as “pawns” against separated/divorced parents invariably end up being listless, insecure and homeless.
- Give teens the benefit of the doubt but trust your instincts.
- Do not encourage drinking or smoking. Vices come at great expense, and not just financially.
- Remain in touch with their teachers and tutors. Attend all the meetings.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not only the girls who commit suicide, young men have been affected by stress, depression and substance abuse. Our local community has been beset with shooting and hanging occurrences.
In the case of overdoses, some children want attention. A cocktail of alcohol and readily available over-the-counter medication is used. In the more rural areas, it is the use of pesticides and poisons.
Not so long ago, we lost a school child due to the rope-around-the-neck choke game. Suicidal ideation/thoughts is much more common than we might imagine.
Note the signs, we need to be cognisant of their our teens mental mind-sets. Check their internet search history. Keep tabs of their friends and the circles they socialise in. I have been known to ask my son for his phone and have randomly checked his messages. Sounds intrusive but I had reason to. I would advise against reading their diaries. If your child is exhibiting insecurity or suicidal tendencies, seek support from therapy centres. Prevent access to drugs, medication and weapons. Understandably, that is tough but it is up to parents to provide emotional, physical and mental security. That is after all, our job.
Teen suicides are preventable. One thing is certain, DO NOT ignore the problem. It will not go away. Your children might just.
Curbing Teen Suicide in South Africa.
Available at: www.sadag.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=816:curbing-teen-suicide-in-south-africa&catid=94&Itemid=132
South African Depression and Anxiety Group – Teen Suicide Infographic 2016. Available at http://www.sadag.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2941:teen-suicide-infographic-2016&catid=92&Itemid=154
IOL – Saturday, 24 February 2018 – https://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/health/mind/how-to-prevent-teen-suicide-13448600
The Young Independents – Saturday, 24 February 2018 – https://www.tyi.co.za/news/local/save-a-friend-help-prevent-teen-suicide/
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Final Image courtesy of lifeteams.ca.jpg