Here are the warning signs.
Over the weekend, Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, reportedly tried to commit suicide. Several media outlets reported she had taken several pills of the homeopathic medication Traumeel because she was distraught over her break-up with her longtime boyfriend.
Dr. Lisa Boesky, author of When to Worry: How to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help -- and What to Do About It, says the following behaviors are important "warning signs" of teens or young adults who may be thinking about ending their lives:
- Gives away possessions of value
- Becomes withdrawn and isolated
- Exhibits abrupt personality change
- Drops out of usual routine
- Neglects hygiene
- Engages in self-destructive or risky behavior
- Makes statements about suicide, dying, or being "gone"
- Looks or sounds like feelings of depression are deepening
- Is curious, fascinated, or preoccupied with death
- Talks about feeling inadequate, hopeless, or guilty
Other signs moms should be aware of include statements like: "I won't be a problem for you much longer," "I wish I were dead," "You'd be better off without me," "You probably wish I would just die."
Certain risk factors also increase a young person's suicide risk, says Dr. Lisa. If your child suffers from a mental health disorder, uses alcohol/drugs, recently experienced a major stressor, is disruptive or aggressive, has been arrested, or is a perfectionist, be particularly vigilant. Young adults who end their lives typically have a combination of risk factors AND warning signs.
If your child is talking about wanting to die or has made a suicide attempt, he or she must be attended to immediately. Any suicide attempt -- no matter how "harmless" it seems -- requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional who is knowledgeable about teen suicide.
The evaluation should determine:
- your child's level of risk
- whether he or she suffers from a mental health or substance abuse disorder
- what current stressors are present
- which strategies need to be in place to ensure his or her safety