How suicide affects your teenager

Jason found himself in one of those tough parenting situations recently. His 16-year-old son came to him at night, extremely upset, saying his friend had just confided that he had tried to commit suicide.

The boy had not succeeded, but Jason’s son was worried about his friend trying again, and wondered how his mate had got so depressed without him realising.

If your teenager’s friend attempts or commits suicide, your child will need your support and help. But how many parents would know what to do or say in such a difficult situation?

Youth suicide is the third most common cause of death of adolescents. The sad fact is that your teenager will probably be affected by suicide at some point.

How suicide affects your teenager

Photo by Julie McLeod/Flickr

Erina Booker is a counsellor with the online help site Help Hub.  She says to begin to understand the effect of such an event on a teenager, we need to be reminded about what it’s like in their world.

Inside the world of the teenager

Teenagers are not ‘having it easy’, even at the best of times,” Erina says. “Confronted with major developmental tasks and changes, learning about their worlds and their place in them can prompt feelings of confusion, isolation, resentment, low self-esteem, and so on.”

Which means ideally a teenager’s world will be as stable as possible. “They need to be able to depend on specific people, routines, events, and lifestyle trajectory,” says Erina.

“Suddenly the teenager becomes part of the ‘world outside’, the place where tragedies occur”

But when a friend commits suicide, or attempts suicide, such an event will come as a “shocking and violent disruption to their assumptive worlds”.

“Suddenly the teenager becomes part of the ‘world outside’, the place where tragedies occur,” explains Erina. “What they or their parents controlled is now replaced with the sense of a loss of control over what impacts on their lives, and what they can allow to affect them.”

Next: How your teenager may respond and How a parent can help

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Comments

  1. Suicide is not openly discussed however it does touch so many lives. Thank you for a great article, you are always prepared to tackle the tricky subjects. It is always so good to have some practical advice to draw upon.

  2. Thanks Helen – it is a tricky subject, and it would be great if no one needed to read this article ever, but sadly they probably will.

  3. Great article. What a shame our kids have to grow up with this being so prevalent. No-one I went to school with suicided, but as a teacher I have seen too many suicides and those left behind are so confused, sad and angry.

    • Thekids says:

      It must be awful being a teacher and knowing the children who take their lives and seeing the fallout. I don’t think I’d cope very well with that. Thanks for your insights.

  4. mimbles says:

    My daughter came home last week and told me that a friend’s brother had been up on the roof of one of the school buildings during the day threatening to jump. He didn’t, and I don’t know anything more about it than that. We talked at the time, both about how she felt and about how her friend might feel, but I am reminded by reading this that I should really follow up on it with her.

  5. Hanna Dieter says:

    Where I grew up, there were so many suicides and drug overdoses….I read another article that offered some helpful advice on how to talk to a teen who shows signs of being suicidal:
    http://www.psychalive.org/2010/03/teen-suicide-concerned-friends-and-family/

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