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Start the conversation: What parents should know about teen suicide

If you see signs of distress in your teen, here is what you need to know before starting a conversation with your teen.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24 in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Talking about suicide can be just as difficult as detecting the warning signs.

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network has a resource guide detailing what you should watch out for and how to talk about it with your child.

Warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide, death, and/or no reason to live
  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Withdrawal from friends and/or social activities
  • Experience of a recent severe loss (especially a relationship) or the threat of a significant loss
  • Experience or fear of a situation of humiliation or failure
  • Drastic changes in behavior
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
  • Preparation for death by making out a will (unexpectedly) and final arrangements
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Previous history of suicide attempts, as well as violence and/or hostility
  • Unnecessary risks; reckless and/or impulsive behavior
  • Loss of interest in personal appearance
  • Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
  • General hopelessness
  • Recent experience of humiliation or failure
  • Unwillingness to connect with potential helpers

RELATED: Sleep deprivation can put your teen's life at risk. Here's how you can help them

Three Farragut mothers who lost children to suicide over the course of three years pointed to sleep deprivation, school pressure and social media as major contributors. 

READ THEIR STORIES: The Reality of Suicide

What you should do: 

  • Be aware. Learn the warning signs.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Ask if they are thinking about suicide.
  • Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow for expressions of feelings and accept those feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture the value of life.
  • Don’t dare him/her to do it.
  • Don’t give advice by making decisions for someone else to tell them to behave differently.
  • Don’t ask “why.” This encourages defensiveness.
  • Offer empathy, not sympathy.
  • Don’t act shocked. This creates distance.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available. Do not offer shallow reassurance; it only proves you don’t understand.
  • Take action. Remove means. Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

RELATED: Dispelling 5 common myths about suicide

"If you have concerns, it's OK to just ask someone, 'Are you considering suicide?' They're not suddenly going to say, 'Hey, that's a great idea.' If they're not considering it, they're just going to say no, but if they are considering it, you might open that doorway [to talk about it]," said Candace Bannister, one of the mothers who lost her son to suicide. "Maybe Will would've responded had I known to ask that question. It didn't know what was on his mind."

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Crisis Text Line: Text TN to 741741 if you're struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Lifeline ofrece 24/7, gratuito servicios en español, no es necesario hablar ingles si usted necesita ayuda. Cuando usted llama al número 1-888-628-9454, su llamada se dirige al centro de ayuda de nuestra red disponible más cercano.

Additionally, the peer recovery call center available in East Tennessee, where those who answer the hotline have first-hand experience in the area.

The center can be reached at 1-865-584-9125 between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Lifeline Crisis Chat: Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention services

RELATED: 'Rise Together' tackles tough issues facing East Tennessee students

RELATED: 'These behaviors begin very early, even in elementary school' | Report shows risky behavior among students

RELATED: You Matter: Benches with National Suicide Lifeline number engraved in Knox, Blount counties

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