One of the more alarming societal trends in recent years is the escalation in the rates of suicide among teens. In fact, teen suicide has increased by over 30% in individuals ages 15-19 since 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In this environment, parents are right to express concern when their own child begins to exhibit signs and symptoms of a mood disorder or mental illness. By having a basic knowledge of the suicidal signs in teens, parents are better equipped to seek timely treatment for their child.
Because the teenage years are generally rife with highly charged emotions, social pressures, and academic stress it may be difficult to ascertain whether the teen is in serious distress or is just going through the usual developmental pains of adolescence. However, being aware of the symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions can help parents determine if their child is seriously struggling, indeed displaying suicidal signs in teens.
What Factors Might Make a Teen Consider Suicide?
It is a mistake to assume that only teens with established mental health disorders would consider suicide. By nature teens are emotion-driven, impulsive, and have not yet acquired coping skills. The area of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control, or the executive functions, is still under construction, and not fully developed until the mid-20s. Absolutely, mental health disorders will attribute to the majority of teen suicide attempts, but certainly other factors are present as well.
Factors that could prompt a suicide attempt might include:
- An existing mental health disorder
- Family distress, such as divorce, domestic abuse, moving to a different city
- Grief and loss due to a sudden death of a family member or friend
- Being physically or sexually abused
- Romantic break-ups
- Social distress, bullying, social conflicts
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol
- Gender confusion
- Family history of depression and/or suicide
Mental Health Disorders in Teens
Teens today are under the most intense mental stress in history, which is evident in the increasing diagnoses of mental health disorders in this age group. Pressure is high to achieve academically and the college admissions process has become all-consuming during the entire high school tenure. Social stressors are now manifested publically on social media platforms, only intensifying the emotional fallout of public shaming or bullying. Social media also sets teens up to feel inadequate or inferior to their peers who seem to have it all together.
Some of the more common teen mental health disorders include:
When depressed mood, extreme fatigue, sleep disorders, loss of interest in social activities, isolating behavior, feelings of hopelessness, and changes in eating habits persists for more than two weeks the teen is likely experiencing a major depressive disorder event.
A range of disorders exists under the anxiety umbrella, including social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The common thread in anxiety disorders is an exaggerated fear response or obsessive worrying.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression, is marked by extreme and unpredictable fluctuations in mood and energy levels, ranging from episodes of severe depression to intense mania.
Substance Use Disorder
A drug or alcohol addiction can be a factor in the development of a mental health disorder, such as depression, or it can be the response to an existing mental health disorder. In the event of an existing mental health disorder, the drug or alcohol is used to self-medicate the unpleasant symptoms caused by the anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.
What are the Signs of a Suicidal Teenager?
Occasional deviations from a teen’s normal routines or behaviors are not cause for concern. Only when a cluster of the following signs develops into a consistent pattern should parents treat the situation aggressively and get mental health treatment for the teen.
- Withdrawing from friends and family, becoming isolated
- Mentioning suicide, threatening to kill themselves, writing friends that they want to die
- Serious mood swings
- Engaging in high risk behaviors
- Engaging in self-destructive behaviors, such as self harming
- Academic performance and/or school attendance plummets
- Increased substance abuse
- Loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
- Possession of materials that can be used for suicide
- No longer participates in activities once enjoyed
- Stating they feel hopeless or worthless
- Change in usual eating habits
- Change in usual sleeping habits
- Signs of extreme agitation or anxiety
- Giving their possessions away to siblings or friends or calling to say goodbye
Treatment for a Teen in Distress
It is never too soon to address a teen’s mental health status if the parent, teacher, or any loved one becomes concerned by changes witnessing in them. If a parent notices extreme moodiness, decline in academic performance, isolating behaviors, excessive sleeping, and sudden weight changes, those are signs that the teen should receive a medical and psychiatric evaluation.
While many teen mood disorders can be adequately managed through outpatient mental health providers, when that proves insufficient and the teen’s condition is worsening, an inpatient or residential teen mental health program would be an appropriate level of care. These residential programs offer acute stabilization for teens that are a danger to themselves or others, and long-term programs that provide intensive, comprehensive psychological interventions that will help the teen overcome or manage their disorder.
BNI Treatment Centers Provides Residential Treatment for Teens in Distress
BNI Treatment Centers is a residential mental health treatment program for teens ages 12-17 serving Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. BNI Treatment offers acute stabilization for a teen in psychiatric crisis, as well as long-term programs for teens struggling with mental health disorders. At BNI Treatment, an emphasis on formulating a highly customized treatment plan for each individual patient helps to fine-tune targeted treatment.
BNI Treatment recognizes the unique characteristics of the teen personality and has created a menu of experiential adjunct therapies, which enhance the traditional psychotherapy they receive, that are very well received by the patients. These include surf therapy, dance therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, art therapy, equine therapy, and yoga. To discuss potential suicidal signs in teens or to learn more about our program, please call BNI Treatment Centers today at (888) 522-1504.