What can parents do to combat the rising suicide rates in teenagers?
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Teenagers today are facing very different problems than their parents did, both as a larger society and in their personal lives. There’s no question that most parents love their children and want to take an active role in supporting their mental health. However, helping them through these unprecedented times brings one challenge after another. How can you help them with situations you’ve never seen before?

Suicide attempts among teenagers in the United States are becoming a more urgent issue. After decreasing through the early 2000s, suicide rates among youth ages 10 to 24 in the U.S. increased by 57% between 2007 and 2018.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call or text 988, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, for immediate support.

This article provides some facts and statistics to show the full scope of this problem. We’ll also share some practical tips and resources you can use to support your teen’s mental health.

What can parents do to support teenagers who may be considering suicide?

As a concerned parent, there’s a lot you can do to help your child. First, you can get familiar with risk factors, protective factors, and the signs of suicidality. Remind your teen often that you care about their mental well-being and they’re not alone. It takes some time to build up an open and trusting line of communication about these serious topics, but checking in and telling your teen you love them often will help you get there.

Next, you can get to know your resources at the local, state and national levels. The State of California has invested $4.7 billion in mental health resources for youth in our state, including a free coaching app. You can also learn about types of mental health treatments that are available for teens at different levels.

One of the most important things you can do is take care of your own mental health. By doing so, you’ll be creating a safer and healthier home environment. If your teen can see you working on your own mental health, they’ll be more likely to come forward and be honest when they need help.

What’s the current U.S. teen suicide rate and why is it rising?

According to the CDC, the rate of suicides in 2022 was the highest it had been since 1941. The coronavirus pandemic helped bring attention to systemic and social issues. However, the mental health crisis was growing before then.

The Surgeon General released a report in 2021 on the overlapping issues today’s teens are facing. He notes that media and marketing campaigns are still pushing negative messages that can erode a teen’s sense of self-worth. Social media is a double-edged sword. Positive connections and helpful information are balanced with social pressures, distressing content and bad actors. Systemic injustice causes a lot of distress, and it means that teens with marginalized identities face disproportionate challenges.

On an individual level, problems rooted in our relationships, our neighborhood conditions, and larger social forces can be exacerbated by genes and brain chemistry. There’s a shortage of mental health care providers and resources. Also, too many people don’t know how to find help when they need it. All of these problems and more are contributing to poor mental health.

Facts and statistics about teens and suicide

While suicide attempts are impossible to predict, they’re more likely to happen when stressors and health issues converge. Many risk factors can contribute, from mental health conditions to access to lethal means, stressful life events, a history of trauma and others. Depression is the condition most associated with suicide attempts, especially when it’s untreated.

Protective factors include connection to family and community support, beliefs that create a strong sense of purpose or self-esteem, problem-solving and coping skills, and access to mental health care.

Here’s a bit more about suicide rates among teens:

  • From 2009 to 2019, the number of high school students considering attempting suicide increased by 36%, and the number creating a suicide plan increased by 44%.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, youth psychiatric visits to emergency departments for depression, anxiety, and behavioral challenges increased by 28%.
  • Consistently, women have a higher rate of suicide attempts than men do, while men have a higher rate of deaths by suicide.
  • Suicide rates vary by race and ethnicity. One study showed that suicide rates were higher among American Indian or Alaskan Native youth aged 15 to 24 than youth of other races. Non-Hispanic white youth closely followed.
  • Suicide rates are higher among the LGBTQ+ population. One study showed that 82% of transgender people have thought about killing themselves, with 40% reporting at least one suicide attempt. 

How we help teens with suicidal thoughts at Lightfully

Our licensed clinicians provide compassionate support for teens in very difficult times. Lightfully Teen programs include several evidence-based treatment modalities, powerful peer support groups, individual therapy, medication management and more. We invite parents and caregivers to take part in family therapy sessions so you can learn how to support your child with their specific mental health needs.

At Lightfully, we treat each teen as a whole person with a unique life, identity and needs, not a list of symptoms. We take a unique approach called process-based therapy (PBT) to tailor a personalized treatment plan for each client.

Are you seeking help for a teen in your life? Get in touch with an Admissions Counselor today or feel free to contact us with any questions.

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