Trigger warning: This content discusses teen suicide.

Every parent is invested in the well-being and long-term health of their child. For many parents, connecting with your teenager can be more difficult than at any other point in their lives, and ensuring that your child can process trauma without resulting in self-harm and suicide is an unfortunate topic on the minds of many parents across the Bay Area. It is no secret that we have shockingly high rates of teen suicide. Only a few months ago, The Mercury News published an article about teen suicide citing the intensifying pressure to be perfect and a fear of failure, coupled with increasing social media usage, as factors that influence suicide rates.

But this isn’t a problem unique to the Bay Area. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide has now become the third-leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24, with more than 4,600 lost each year. Another 157,000 end up in emergency rooms due to self-harm. It’s clear that we must encourage cultural shifts in how we prioritize and talk about mental health, and that conversation can start right at home. Here are a few suggestions to guide your conversation, but most importantly, if you are worried about your child, always seek professional help first. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 any time of day, seven days a week, for free and confidential support for those in suicidal crisis or distress.

Normalize discussions about suicidal thoughts.

You are your child’s biggest source of support, and by discussing a scary and often taboo topic, you are demonstrating that you can provide a safe space to process difficult thoughts with.

Let your child know you’re concerned.

If you are concerned, ask your child directly if they are having suicidal thoughts. Avoiding a direct ask reinforces the stigma around suicide. By confronting the issue head on, and with compassion, it demystifies an otherwise scary and intimidating conversation.

Listen without judgement.

With judgement free listening, you are showing your teen that you care and that they’re not alone, no matter how much they may feel it. But importantly, listening isn’t just relegated to discussions. Pay attention to their behavior, health, and relationships with their friends, which are also indicative of your teen’s mental health.

Listen to your instincts.

If you feel like something is wrong, don’t leave your teen alone and get professional help immediately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call an ambulance, and schedule regular therapy appointments for longer-term treatment.

At Primrose Healing and Wellness, we are here to support both parents and children through the most challenging moments of their life. Get in touch with us for a free 15-minute chat on the phone to see if we could be a good fit for you.