Loss, Change & Grief
Listen to a Teenager
Journey of Hearts
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Listen to a Teenager:It may save a life!

The following information originally came from an article published in Patient Care, to be read by primary care practitioners.
The advise to listen and save a life, is an important concept that I gleaned from reading the article.
After having to medically treat teenagers and young adults after a suicide attempts, I thought it would be helpful to present this general information. I have also been asked for advice from several grandparents of teen, concerned that their grandchild might be suicidal.
This information on teen suicide is included so that people will have access to some more general screening guidelines and decide whether or not it is time to intervene.

Suicide and Teenagers: Determining the Risk

When teenagers talk about committing suicide---LISTEN! It may save a life!

Even more so than in the adult population, teens will frequently talk about committing suicide before attempting to do so. In general, teenagers are more likely than adults to follow through on their talk of suicide, girls are more likely to attempt suicide but ultimately, boys are more likely to succeed in killing themselves.

The statistics on teenage suicide are alarming. Between 1980 and 1992 suicide rate for the age group 10-14 increased by 120 % (One hundred and twenty!). For the age group 15-19 the increase was 28.3%. However, many of the experts believe the true incidence of suicide is underestimated, because many suicides are mistaken and reported as fatal accidents.

Those at highest risk of suicide are the white males, but the risk has increased among black males.

The best thing to do with teenagers is to LISTEN! Teenagers who say they are depressed, are stuck in a "hopeless situation," that a friend or relative has just died or committed suicide are for all intensive purposes telling who ever is listening they are thinking about death.

Do not worry that discussing the issue of suicide will make teens more inclined to do it, it will generally make them feel better, by getting a chance to talk.
Some of the following direct questions may be good openers:

Parental denial and problems with parents are strongly associated with suicide attempts in adolescents.

Those with a clearly planned method and access to that method are at risk. Adolescents often act on impulse; those who are suicidal require immediate intervention by mental health experts and possible hospitalization.

If in doubt, I always advise if someone is concerned to get help. Take their friend or loved one to see a physician, a counselor, a clergy member or health professional. It is better to overreact than to not, and have to bury someone.


LISTEN to a Teenager: It may save a life!
Adapted from Patient Care, June 15, 1997  p. 103

If you or anyone you know seems to be experiencing depression, consider taking one of the quizzes on the other depression pages, Self Assessment Quiz or  Wakefield Questionnaire and contact your health care provider, counselor, clergy member or social worker and get the help you need.

Last updated October 5, 1999
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