Recently when I tried to talk with her about her current unhappiness she said she wished she were dead. I've heard so much about teen suicide I'm fearful. How can I tell if she is suicidal? Should I be worried? What can I do to help her out of her depression?
A. It's good you are aware of your daughter's unhappiness. Many teenagers are depressed and some get to the point of being suicidal. Clinical depression in teens can be difficult to evaluate because many of the symptoms are also characteristics of normal adolescent development.
For example, adolescence is characterized by mood swings. One day a teen may feel happy and confident and the next day have the blues. This is due to the many hormonal changes as the teen matures physically and due to the social pressures teenagers experience. There are, nevertheless, a number of warning signs that a teenager may be suicidal. These include:
· Looking at life in a very negative way; being unable to believe things will ever get better; lowered self-esteem.
· Inability to concentrate and a drop in school performance.
· Withdrawing from friends or activities.
· Sleeping more than usual or insomnia.
· Loss of appetite or eating more than usual.
· Escapes: substance abuse, promiscuous sex, fantasy.
· Losses: parent's divorce, death of a family member, the loss of a boyfriend.
· Previous suicide in the family.
· Fixation on death, suicide threats, giving away belongings
· A definite plan as to how they will commit suicide.
The number of symptoms your daughter has and the intensity and duration of them reveals how seriously depressed she is. Whether or not the symptoms are appropriate to her personality and her current life situation are also important in determining the seriousness of her depression.
Your daughter needs help. Choose a counselor who can relate to teenagers and who will provide at least an hour a week of talk therapy. Your daughter probably needs to work through mixed emotions about your divorce as well as help with grieving the breakup of her relationship with her boyfriend. Many pastors are trained as counselors and would know where to refer you if they were unable to help.
Consider this urgent and insist that your daughter see someone for evaluation and continued counseling.
“Why are you downcast O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11
This post appeared originally on Taber's Truths Modern Christian Living.