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How to Discuss Thoughts of Depression and Suicide

Last Updated: March 2021

When someone feels depressed, their world slowly fades into darkness with chronic feelings of loneliness and worthlessness.

It can be tough to watch someone you love, especially your child, deal with a major depressive episode. You know your teenager is loved beyond measure and that their life matters. So, how do you talk to your teen about depression and suicide?

Read our tips for speaking to a depressed teen and how to get your child the help they need to recover from depression.

Teenage Depression and Suicide Statistics

It may feel like you are alone in helping your teen cope with their depression. However, it is a more common condition than most parents realize.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 10% of teenagers and young adults between 18-25 have reported having suicidal thoughts.

Suicide* is currently the second-highest leading cause of death in the United States for Americans between the ages of 10-24 – and the rates of suicide continue to rise.

Signs of Depression and Suicidal Ideation in Teens

Before you have a conversation with your child about suicide, you need to identify signs of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Teens who are considering suicide commonly exhibit the following behaviors:

  • A history of abuse or assault
  • Changes in activity level
  • Changes in weight
  • Excessive feelings of guilt
  • Expressing feeling of unworthiness
  • Glorifying death
  • Having a plan for suicide
  • Withdrawing from their social group

5 Tips for Talking With a Teen Who Has Thoughts of Depression or Suicide

As teen depression and suicide rates continue to rise, it’s vital to be proactive in prevention.

These five tips can cultivate meaningful conversations with your child that may prevent suicide:

1. Encourage transparent communication. 

One of the most important things you can do as a parent of a depressed teen is to keep your child talking. Let them know they are not alone and that many teens, and many parents too, feel depressed at times.

Tell them things will get better and that you are there to get them the help they need.

2. Never ignore a suicide threat. 

Do not dismiss any verbal or written statement that indicates your child is contemplating suicide. Too often, teens who have attempted suicide have told multiple people several times they want to kill themselves. Statements such as “Everyone would be better off without me” or “Nothing matters” are red flags. 

Try not to react too strongly and do not dismiss their threat. Listen to them, ask them questions, and then affirm their feelings with a statement like: “I am sorry you are hurting so badly. How can we help?”

3. Practice active listening.

Teens are at the highest risk for suicide when three or more issues or factors come together to disrupt their norm. This may include access to weapons, chronic pain, public embarrassment, significant loss, social pressure, substance abuse and more

When these things happen in your teen’s life, take action. Talk to them, and more importantly, listen to what they have to say. Ask open-ended questions and repeat what they have told you to show you are paying attention.

4. Seek professional help immediately. 

Do not wait to contact a mental health professional.

Contact a local mental health care provider, call a mental health crisis support team or go to your local emergency room if your child is an immediate threat to themselves.

5. Watch for signs of depression and take action. 

Every teen can have a bad day where they feel down. A depressed teen, however, will have chronic feelings of loneliness and unhappiness and may seek isolation.

Do not wait for your child to talk to you. Now is the time to intervene and ask your child if they need help.

*This article is for informational purposes only and not to be considered medical advice. If your child is having a mental health emergency, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for immediate support by calling or texting 988 or chatting online. You can also text HOME to 741741 ─ the Crisis Text Line ─ from anywhere in the country to talk with a trained crisis counselor.  

Embark is the most trusted name in teen and young adult mental health treatment. We’re driven to find the help your family needs. If you’re looking for support, contact us today!

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Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health is a leading network of outpatient centers and residential programs offering premier mental health treatment for preteens, teens, and young adults. Dedicated to its big mission of reversing the trends of teen and young adult anxiety, depression, and suicide by 2028, Embark offers a robust continuum of care with different levels of service and programming; has a deep legacy of over 25 years serving youths; works with families to adjust treatment in real time to improve results; treats the entire family using an evidence-based approach; and offers the highest levels of quality care and safety standards. For more information about Embark or its treatment programs, including virtual services, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), therapeutic day treatment programs, also known as partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), residential treatment, and outdoor therapy, visit embarkbh.com.