As kids enter their teenage years, they begin to search for an identity that is separate from their parents, which means they become more withdrawn from the adults in their lives.
They may choose to confide in their friends over their parents, which can leave parents wondering whether their moody young adult is just going through a “phase” or is actually struggling with mental health issues.
It can be terrifying to be unsure whether your high school or college-age child is grappling with depression and suicidal thoughts, and you might feel powerless to do anything. However, there are strategies that parents can use to support their child and get them the help they need.
Yellowbrick, a mental health treatment service for young adults, has compiled a list of answers to questions many parents have when trying to figure out how to help their child. Key questions and answers include:
How can I know if my young adult is at risk for suicide?
Sadly, there’s no reliable indicator of impending suicide, and many people are shocked to discover that someone close to them is having suicidal thoughts.
The best thing that parents can do is to be observant and keep an eye out for common red flags, such as isolation from friends and peers, acting secretive and expressing despair. Someone who is having suicidal thoughts may also exhibit some other symptoms of depression, such as loss of interest in activities that once provided pleasure, unusual sleep habits (insomnia or sleeping for long periods of time), fatigue, trouble concentrating, and feelings of sadness.
Are specific mental illnesses associated with a higher rate of suicide?
When left untreated, any type of psychotic illness is associated with a higher rate of suicide and early death due to poor health management. Depression and bipolar disorder in particular have a higher rate of suicide and suicide attempts, and anorexia nervosa has also been linked to suicide due to the effects that starvation has on mood and judgment.
If your child does suffer from a mental illness, make sure you do not stigmatize them. Think of mental illness like any other health issue and get them the treatment they need.
As a parent, what can I do to help my child after a suicide attempt?
Because many people feel overwhelming shame after a suicide attempt, one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to show your child that you accept them and that you are not judging them.
Offer your support, even if your child seems unwilling to accept it, and empathize with them if they do share their feelings with you. Make sure that your child knows they can safely and openly communicate with you if they want, and seek professional assistance for mental illnesses.
These are just a few of the questions that parents of young adults should be asking in order to better understand depression and suicide.
To get answers to six more vital questions, check out this infographic from Yellowbrick.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Tom Chapman/Flickr, Courtesy of Yellowbrick
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