What Parents Should Know about Teen Depression and Suicide

By Jan Pierce, M.ED.

The controversial television mini-series 13 Reasons Why, based on the book by Jay Asher, has brought the topic of teen depression and suicide to the forefront. The graphic nature of this show and concerns of health professionals that the issue will be glamorized, has caused many agencies and school districts to issue warnings about the dangers of viewing the show.

However, the issue is real and staring today’s parents in the face. The truth is, teen suicide is on the rise, especially in young girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death in females aged 15-24. Additionally it’s estimated that one in five teens from all walks of life will suffer from depression at some point in their teen years and depression can lead to desperation and a desire to end life.

Teens face many pressures in our fast-paced world. They endure the natural body and hormone changes we all faced as young people, plus questions of identity and finding a place socially, emotionally and psychologically. Teen depression goes further than normal moodiness and can sometimes be hard to diagnose. But teen depression is treatable and young lives can be rescued back to normalcy.

How to Know Teens Need Help

Since most teens go through some times of sadness and ups and downs of emotions, it can be difficult to know when they are really in trouble. Here are some behaviors to watch for which, taken together, can alert parents and other adults to their need for help.

In other cases extreme behaviors such as cutting (self-injury) or eating disorders may be the result of depression.

In addition to the above behaviors, adults may notice that their teens display some of the following behaviors:

Again, everyone feels some negative feelings from time to time. The key is to watch for patterns, sudden changes in behavior or a combination of the above problems that become worrisome to family members, teachers and others who know the teen well.

Springtime is the time of year when the highest number of suicide attempts among teens takes place. It coincides with the pressures of final exams, fears related to college entrance or other future plans and, sometimes, the worries related to such events as proms and other social events.

Some warning signs that a teen may be contemplating suicide include:

How You Can Help

Parents can play a role in identifying teen depression and become champions of hope and recovery. You know your child best. Here are some ways you can support teens suffering from depression and possibly having thoughts of suicide:

Become familiar with available mental health support systems. Below, find help lines and other sources of support for teens who may be suicidal.