Parent Survival Guide: Recognizing suicidal behavior in kids

VIDEO: Parent Survival Guide: Recognizing suicidal behavior in kids

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As a parent It can be hard to determine when the highs and lows of adolescence has become something to worry about.

The topic of suicide is not the easiest and most conversational talk to have for families.

But according to licensed clinical social worker Liz Meadows says it should be.

"My case load is full. I feel like there is a very high need in the area to work with kids and regulating their emotions," says Meadows.

According to the latest statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death of children between the ages of 10 and 24.

Meadows says she sees many kids in her clinic with anxiety and depression.

“The demands on kids have gotten a lot greater. The stress they are facing is more of an adult-like stress,” says Meadows.

She says detecting that your child might be dealing with depression and thoughts of hopelessness can be subtle because younger kids don’t have the language to express how they feel.

For example: A child might say “No one cares if I’m here” and might also make statements about helplessness.

"While a teen might say something like, ‘You’ll be better off when I’m gone’ or ‘Nothing matters, “a lot of times you will hear kids say well,’I talked to teachers, I talked to parents and nothing is changing.' If you hear a lot of nothing is changing what’s the point then? That’s hopelessness and them saying I should just give up and there’s no point in me continuing to do this and that’s when you begin to worry,” says Meadows.

Meadows tells parents to look for behavioral changes on the outside.

Use that as an opportunity to try and connect with their emotions and listen to what's going on behind those feelings of hopelessness.

“As parents, we’re looking for behavior changes, increased irritability, are they isolating more and getting more frustrated over homework before they were achieving average or above average,” says Meadows.

She says having protective factors in place for kids like a supportive family, school, and friends can make a big difference in intervention.

Pastor Byron Benton with Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church says the community is also key in tackling the mental health issue.

His church has has a mental health ministry to help families get the help they need.

“Anything that we don’t address, it ends up becoming bigger and ends up addressing us. We know that there is a mental health crisis in our nation and we need to talk and take the stigma out if it,” says Benton.

Benton says helping your child is all about walking with them on their journey and really listening as they work though healing.

“We need to hear these cries that are crying out. I can’t tell you how many Sundays I have had young people come to the alter crying because a loved one has committed suicide," Benton said."We need to do more than pray at the altar. We need to put our hands on what’s really going on and have difficult conversations so that we can connect on a deep level with our children.”

Meadows says any signs of suicidal behavior should be taken seriously, and it’s important to get an evaluation by someone licensed in mental health and who specializes in working with children.

“It’s better to get your child accessed and link up with a professional and get validation that your doing awesome as a parent and your kid is awesome, or to be able to develop a plan that will support your child,” says Meadows.

Meadows says with support in place kids can get though their feelings and learn coping skills that can help them though difficult situations that might come up in the future.

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