Author: Yolandi Singleton, Therapy Unit
Being a teenager these days is tremendously challenging. There are many stressors they have to deal with and mostly feel that no one understands them. Hormonal changes as well as developing their identity are factors amongst many others that plays a role in teenagers experiencing confusion, moods and emotional distress.
Suicide is always a topic that should be dealt with in the most sensitive way possible. It is a mental health concern. Individuals who feel the need to commit suicide really believe that the world will be a much better place if they are not in it. They truly believe and have convinced themselves that the people nearest to them will be better off. They have completely lost hope and don’t see any way out. They are not selfish, but merely want to end their lives in order to feel relief from all the stressors they are facing and overwhelms them.
Teenagers who want to commit suicide can deal with many stressors such as being bullied, being a victim of sexual, physical and emotional abuse as well as abandonment from significant figures in their lives which most probably occurred from a very young age or even during pregnancy. Research have shown that trauma has a large negative impact on the functioning of the brain. Therefore, when a person deal with multiple trauma, it causes a chemical imbalance in the brain. This happens in the part of the brain where logic plays an important role. As a result, individuals that experience multiple trauma lose their logical thinking.
Here are some warning signs that a teenager wants to commit suicide:
· Talking about wanting to commit suicide or wanting to harm themselves
· Writing about wanting to commit suicide by means of poems, assignments or essays
· Not taking anti-depressants that was prescribed
· Being isolated – not have a need to engage with his/her peer group
· Change in personality and habits such as eating and sleeping habits
· Constantly and excessively verbalising that he/she is good enough
· Change in behaviour – the teenager is completely different to how he/she use to be
· Not having any hopes and dreams for the future
· Having severe anger outbursts, being very aggressive and have unpredictable mood swings
Many times teenagers threaten to commit suicide and it is then viewed as that the child is seeking attention. No suicidal thoughts should ever be ignored or seen as a mere threat. Here are some tips on how to prevent your teen from committing or attempting to commit suicide:
· Have an open relationship with your child where your child feels free to communicate with you. The best way to improve on the relationship is to be on par with your child’s needs and to listen attentively to what they say
· Identify your child’s emotions whilst listening and do not dismiss how they feel about anything. Don’t make them feel that they are overacting, rather acknowledge the feeling and provide support
· Share your feelings as well so that your child learn to meet you halfway
· Encourage the child to mingle with his/her peer group
· Do not expose your child to violence in the home for example partner-violence
· Act immediately when your child disclose sexual, physical abuse or being bullied
· Encourage your child to exercise in order to prevent stress
· If your child verbalised suicide thoughts or has made attempts, hide any harmful weapons and objects such as firearms, knives, ropes, medication, gas and alcohol.
If you as a parent or caregiver followed the abovementioned steps and still see troublesome behaviour regarding suicide with your child, contact a professional such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist for further assistance. Do not feel alone. Seek help and guidance immediately.
If you need to talk to someone, please contact Child Welfare Tshwane on 012-3439392.