When a teen makes the ultimate decision to take their life, everyone feels the loss. Family members, counselors, friends, teachers, and teammates often feel guilt, confusion and an intense grief. There is always the sense that maybe the suicide could have been prevented if they had seen the signs. Some of these signs may be subtle while others are a desperate cry for help. Learning these warning signs of suicide and reaching out for help can save a teen's life.

Changes in Behavior

According to KidsHealth.org, there are many behavioral changes. The teen might have a change in sleeping patterns.

They might sleep excessively or suffer from insomnia.

They may have a change in their typical eating habits. They might abuse substances such as drugs (legal and illegal drugs) and alcohol. They might complain of physical symptoms that are often linked to emotions such as stomachaches, headaches and fatigue. The teen might give away their favorite belongings or state that they will leave certain items behind for family members and friends. They may just discard their personal belongings. Know that a teen that tries to take their life is at greatest risk for another suicide attempt. Realize that the majority of suicide attempts are desperate cries for help and not a tactic to get attention.

Personality Change

Many teens go through a roller coaster of emotions as they try to form their own identities.

However, a suicidal teen might have a noticeable personality change. They may engage in reckless or dangerous behavior. They may get in trouble with the law or with school. There may be frequent conflicts with parents. A suicidal teen may become obnoxious, irritable, rebellious, and violent because they are trying to distance themselves from others. They may not tolerate compliments or rewards. Watch for a depressed teen that suddenly becomes cheerful as if they have suddenly found the solution to their emotional distress.

Suicide Talk

A suicidal teen may seek out people that they know as if it were the last time that they will talk to them.

They might create suicide notes that others can find. They might try to express their suicidal wishes by writing stories or poems that romanticize dying and death. A teen might leave many verbal hints that they are intending to commit suicide.

The teen might convey their suicidal thoughts with statements such as, "I won't be a problem much longer," "in case something happens," and "I want you to know."

Seek help immediately when you hear actual statements such as, "I wish I was dead," "I wish I could disappear," and "I need to kill myself."

When you are in a suicide crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Know that you are not alone and there is help available. It is never too late.

Withdrawal from Social Life

Most teens want to spend time with their peers.

A suicidal teen will often do the opposite.

They will gradually isolate themselves from friends that they used to hang out with.

SafeYouth.org warns that a suicidal teen will often distance themselves from their family members, even from their favorite sibling. They might lose interest in hobbies or extracurricular activities. There might be a sudden decline in their academic performance. The teen might begin to neglect their personal appearance and basic hygiene.

Seek Help

Seek help immediately when you have seen any of these warning signs. Speak to your teen's physician and ask to be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Keep all appointments with this mental health professional even when your teen resists. It is crucial that the teen learn coping mechanisms to deal with personal problems to reduce the chances that they will turn to self-destructive behavior in times of stress. It is important to seek help for family problems such as alcoholism, emotional abuse, and domestic violence because these issues can make a teen desperate for a solution to the ongoing conflicts within their family. Your local hospital can also be a source of help during a crisis situation. Treatment includes a complete psychiatric evaluation.

Author's Bio: 

Dore E. Frances, Ph.D. began her small therapeutic consulting practice as an Advocate in California in 1988. In her work as an Advocate, she became familiar with the processes and strategies families develop to find appropriate educational matches for their children. In the course of her work, she also became aware that these inherent family strategies and processes do not always work the same way for every family.

In order to better understand adolescent development, family development, family dynamics, programs, schools and students, Dore received a masters degree in Child and Family Studies.

This provided the framework for her previous experience in advocacy work and independent therapeutic assistance and inspired her to expand her personal Educational / Therapeutic Consulting practice with an office in Pacific Grove, California.

Simultaneously she worked in the grief counseling field assisting children and families through the trauma of loss.

She remained in this work at The Hospice of Monterey until 2003, when she moved to Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, maintaining an office there.

Dore then moved to Bend, Oregon in 2004 where she is currently a member of Advocates for Children of Trauma, the American Bar Association as an Advocate, a member of Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, a member of The National Association of Parents with Children in Special Education and an associate member of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs.

Between 2005 and 2008 Dore also volunteered with CASA of Deschutes County.

Dore previously served as the Executive Director for the non-profit Positive Directions Foundation in California, a whole child and family approach offering workshops to communities and schools focusing on such areas of concern as alcohol and drug addiction in teens, pathways to positive directions for youth, reducing bullying behaviors, teen pregnancy, and teen and family relationships.

Dr. Frances has a Masters Degree in Child & Family Studies and a Doctorate of Applied Human Development in Child and Family Development with an emphasis in Diverse Families and a minor in Child Advocacy.

Dr. Frances provides a professional relationship for all of her clients with a compassionate and sensitive commitment to each unique individual.