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Exercising Parental Authority

Suicide

There were 358 deaths by suicide in San Diego County in 2008. Twenty-nine of these were ages 15-24. This makes suicide the third leading cause of non-natural death in this age group behind unintentional injuries and homicides. In its Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 1,667 students in 31 San Diego Unified School District high schools in the spring of 2009, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 13.9 percent of the respondents had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months, and 6 percent actually attempted suicide at least once. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) says that suicide can be prevented because most people who are suicidal give some warning to a friend or family member. Thus, parents can prevent suicides by their children by learning to recognize the signs of a child at risk, taking those signs seriously, and knowing how to respond to them. More than 90 percent of the people who kill themselves are suffering from one or more psychiatric disorders. These include depression, substance abuse and dependence, eating and personality disorders, etc. These are both recognizable and treatable. Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Signs of depression include the following:

  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, sad, or empty
  • Self-reproach or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Feeling angry or moody
  • Excessive crying
  • Loss of interest in things that used to be fun
  • Avoiding friends or feeling alone when with friends
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Intense anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Decreased concentration, indecisiveness, or poorer memory

Other warning signs of person considering suicide are:

  • Talking, reading, or writing about suicide or death
  • Visiting friends to say good-bye
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior. e.g., drug or alcohol abuse
  • Giving things away
  • Acquiring means of killing oneself, e.g., buying a gun, stockpiling pills or drugs, etc.

If your child threatens suicide you should call the San Diego County 24-Hour Crisis Line at (800) 479-3339 immediately. Otherwise if you observe any of these signs you should start by talking to your child. Express your concerns, ask what the problems are, and listen to what your child says. You should help your child understand that his or her problems are temporary and can be solved with the help of a physician or mental health professional. And then get that help. If medication is prescribed, make sure it is taken and be alert for possible adverse side effects. And if it is not effective, ask the physician to prescribe another one. For more information go to the AFSP’s website at www.afsp.org.