Why the Warning Signs of Suicide are Important

Sunday, August 4, 2019 | 12:09 am

This story was originally a Blog post on the Hillsides website:

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24. The increase in suicides is alarming and warrants consideration as an epidemic. Children living in foster care and those identifying as LGBTQ are at a higher risk than the general population. Many children in our care fall into these two categories, so for us, it requires special vigilance to be attentive to any indicators of risk for suicide. Changes in mood,
unusual behavior, increased isolation, depression, and self-harming behavior are all things that would raise our concern and require our attention.

This last September was Suicide Prevention Month. Given the significant increase in incidents, it is important for all of us to become familiar with the warning signs. Some believe asking about suicide will only increase the possibility that someone will harm himself or herself. However, the opposite is true. Addressing the possibility that someone might be depressed enough to harm themselves is often the conversation that can make the difference and avoid a tragedy. A recent CBS report of how a couple was blindsided when their 17-year-old daughter jumped off a highway overpass to her death points to the challenge of recognizing the warning signs. A high-achieving, socially active and well-liked child was consumed with self-doubts and loathing, unable to express her feelings except in a journal that recorded her anguish. Because suicidal thoughts can be so difficult to detect, it is important to approach our children with a heightened sensitivity.

At Hillsides we address suicide issues as an opportunity to assure the children and youth in our care that we are committed to keeping them safe and will provide what they need to deal with anything they are experiencing. Helping them trust adults is perhaps the greatest obstacle given the traumas they have experienced. Being non-judgmental, affirming, and consistently present goes a long way in overcoming the lack of trust. Communicating in word and action that they are valued and important is often what children need to know in order to seek help.

The stigma associated with mental illness is significant. A tendency to underestimate the risk of suicide is strong. Stressors affecting our children and adolescents are easily unrecognized. Without becoming unnecessarily protective, we should adopt a vigilant posture in increasing our awareness of the risk of suicide and take advantage of the opportunities we have to assure our children of our love and care.

For more information about suicide prevention, please visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

For more information, or to donate to or volunteer at Hillsides, please call (323) 543-2800, or visit hillsides.org.








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