Is Your Teen at Risk for Suicide?

Question: Can you give me some more specific advice about how to tell if my son is at risk for suicide?

Answer: The Family Research Council provided the following checklist that may be helpful to you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Has your son's personality changed dramatically?
  • Is he having trouble with a girlfriend? Or is he having trouble getting along with other friends or with parents? Has he withdrawn from people he used to feel close to?
  • Is the quality of his schoolwork going down? Has he failed to live up to his own or someone else's standards when it comes toschool grades, for example?
  • Does he always seem bored, and is he having trouble concentrating?
  • Is he acting like a rebel in an unexplained and severe way?
  • Is he having trouble coping with a major life change, such as amove or the separation with a parent?
  • Has he run away from home?
  • Is your teenager abusing drugs and/or alcohol?
  • Is he complaining about headaches, stomachaches, and other symptoms that may or may not be real?
  • Have his eating or sleeping habits changed?
  • Has his appearance changed for the worse?
  • Is he giving away some of his most prized possessions?
  • Is he writing notes or poems about death?
  • Does he talk even jokingly about suicide? Has he said things such as, "That's the last straw," "I can't take it anymore," or "Nobody cares about me"? (Threatening to kill oneself precedes four out of five suicidal deaths.)
  • Has he tried to commit suicide before?

If you are seeing a pattern of these characteristics in your son, I urge you to seek professional help for him immediately. Many suicides come as a complete shock to bewildered parents. You are wise to remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms that might otherwise escape notice. Having a strong and involved family is the most effective preventative, not just for potential suicide but also for most other antisocial behaviors.

Unfortunately, this kind of family is what millions of kids do not have.

Book: Bringing Up Boys

By Dr. James Dobson

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