Skip to main content
Preventing Suicide in Teens

You are listening to Healthy Kids Zone:

Preventing Suicide in Teens

Feb 08, 2021
Suicide can be a difficult topic to discuss with a teenager, but it is too important to ignore—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teen depression, self-harm, and suicide have seen a rise as teenagers are cut off from their sense of normal. Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner shares her personal and professional experience with suicide, and the importance of checking in with your child and helping them process what they are experiencing. The National Suicide and Crisis Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by dialing 988.

Episode Transcript

Suicide is one of those topics no one wants to talk about, but something that needs to be discussed. This is our topic today on The Scope.

Recently, a longtime family friend's daughter, who my kids have grown up with since they were really little, whom we have known since before our 12 year old was even born, acted on an impulse and took her own life. This podcast is dedicated to her. Her parents know I'm doing this podcast in her honor. During her services, her parents spoke about how important it is to bring awareness to the reality of suicide in teens, to talk about it, to talk to your kids about how they can come to you if they're having thoughts of self-harm, that there might not always be the warning signs that people tell you to look for.

With teens, their brains are not yet fully developed in terms of executive function skills. So they often can't see that while things may be bad right now, there is hope. And often, in time, things will improve. This is true so much this year with the pandemic. Our teens are not able to do normal teenager things like school functions, dances, hanging out with friends, having their first boyfriend or girlfriend. They have been cut off from interactions outside their families. Teens can only see what is happening here and now. And in their minds, it feels like things will never be the same again.

Unfortunately, they're probably right. Things will most likely never go back to the way that they had been. However, there is hope, hope that we are better able to understand COVID and hope that we will be able to bring an end to the pandemic. Hope that within the next year, people can start returning to what we consider normal life.

Knowing someone who has completed suicide will rock you to your core. Sometimes there are signs like sadness, wanting to sleep more, or stay away from others more than teens normally do, grades falling and your teen not really caring about school. Sometimes there is a history of mental illness or self-harm, and it gets the better of them. And sometimes, a teen will struggle in silence. They will appear happy and social on the outside, but be suffering within, until one day that wave of suffering overpowers them, and they act on their immediate feelings with fatal results.

The more I have spoken to teens and parents of teens, the more the subject of negative thoughts seems to come up. More and more teens are having these thoughts. More and more teens are doing self-harm, like cutting or attempting overdoses. I have about a patient a week lately, where I am having this conversation with them. It's real, it's serious. Teens need to know that we are there for them and that they can come to us, that they have options for help. No, we can't make everything go back to the way it was. No, we can't take their feelings away from them. But we can help them work through their feelings, give them options that are safe, and help them to understand that they aren't alone.

We see you, we hear you. You are beautiful and special, and you are loved.