The media and social landscape surrounding suicide and its stigma have drastically changed in the last decade. And although well-intentioned, the media has inadvertently glorified suicide while trying to inform the public. When a teen sees a completed suicide, this can increase their chances at attempting suicide. For those experiencing mental health symptoms of depression and/or anxiety the negative thoughts can take over and become repetitive which can be difficult to manage. According to 2016 CDC statistics, suicide rates across the nation are on the rise. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34.
What warning signs should I look for?
- Statements like, “What’s the point anymore?” “Why am I here?”
- Increased tendencies to isolate
- Changes in appetite or eating habits
- Sleep disturbances such as not sleeping or over sleeping
- Moodiness and irritability
- Anxiety or excessive worry
- Not wanting to go to school or being bullied
Try not to minimize these behaviors as “normal teenage behaviors” – if the behaviors are lasting more than two weeks, consider reaching out to a professional. Don’t be afraid of the word suicide, it is important to keep an open line of communication and take away of the shame and stigma surrounding not only suicide, but all mental illness.
What can I do?
1. Check in! If you know a loved one who struggles with depression or any mental illness, it’s good to keep checking in with them. Ask them how they are doing. How was their day? Don’t accept, “fine” as an answer, dive deeper. Teens especially often give the impression they don’t want help or want to be left alone, but they really do crave that caring and concern from important people in their lives. Be persistent. Statistics indicate that if a youth can connect to one person in their lives it is a protective factor that can reduce their risk for not only suicide, but other at-risk behaviors.
2. Take it seriously, call a professional. Casa Pacifica’s Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth, or SAFTY program is designed to respond to at-risk youth experiencing a mental health crisis. We work to preserve families, and strengthen communities through collaboration with law enforcement, schools, and/or existing treatment teams to prevent psychiatric hospitalization, juvenile detention, or placement in out-of-county facilities.
3. Be part of the solution. Let’s create a society where those in need are not shamed for reaching out. It’s not only okay to reach out for help, it is safe. If you, or someone you know hasn’t had the best experience reaching out, try again. You will find someone who will help. Use any one of the resources below to find more localized resources for yourself or someone you know. Together, we can change the discussion around suicide and mental illness.
Casa Pacifica SAFTY Hotline (for Santa Barbara County): (888) 334-2777
Crisis Text Line: 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255