Helping parents recognize teens in crisis


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens in the U.S. Health experts have identified factors that will help parents, medical professionals and educators recognize teens at risk for self-injury and suicide.

Suicide is a form of escape

"For many young people, suicide represents an escape from unbearable situations – problems that seem impossible to solve or negative emotions that feel overwhelming," explained Lindsay Taliafero, an assistant professor of health sciences at the University of Missouri. "Adults can help these teens dissect their problems, help them develop healthful coping strategies, and facilitate access to mental health care so their problems don’t seem insurmountable."

Taliaferro looked at data from the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey to find the factors associated with self-injury. More than 60,000 students contributed to the survey. Of those students, 4,000 reported previous self-harm and nearly half had attempted suicide.

Hopelessness is a common factor

"Of the teens who engaged in non-suicidal self-injury, hopelessness was a prominent factor that differentiated those who attempted suicide from those who did not have a history of suicide attempts," Taliaferro pointed out.

Kids need a safe place to talk

"Adults don’t need to solve all the teens’ problems, but they should let the teens know they have safe persons they can talk to," Taliaferro explained. "Sometimes just talking about their feelings allows young people to articulate what they’re going through and to feel understood, which can provide comfort."

Parent connectedness is key

She continued, "One of the most important protective factors against teens engaging in self-injury was parent connectedness, and, for females, connections with other pro-social adults also were associated with reduced likelihood of engaging in self-injury. Parents are extremely valuable influences in their children’s lives."

Source: MedicalNewsToday, MU School of Health Professionals


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