Teen suicide warning signs and what to do
February 23, 3:12 PM
by Amber Kirk, Des Moines Teen Issues Examiner
In 2008 on the day before Father's Day, my 16-year-old daughter tried to commit suicide by taking 2600 mg of Zoloft. My husband and I were left in shock. Our family had gone through some life altering changes throughout that year and we were witnessing the way those changes were affecting our children, but we never thought that one of our children would be affected to the point of wanting to die. By the time the ambulance got her to the hospital the Zoloft had already gone into her system and they couldn't't pump any of it out of her stomach. Throughout the night all they could do was try to keep her comfortable and closely monitor her in case the medication started to adversely affect her vital organs. She experienced rapid pulse and heart rate, profuse sweating, drop in oxygen, involuntary twitching and movement of her arms and legs, and extreme panic and agitation. I was told by the doctors after she made it through that first night that the amount of pills she had taken could've caused her to have a heart attack, respiratory failure, and/or death. My daughter had cheated death but others aren't so lucky.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2005 there were 4,484 people between the ages of 5 and 24 who committed suicide. They listed the following warning signs:
- Observable signs of serious depression:
- Unrelenting low mood
- Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
- Sleep problems
- Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
- Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
- Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
- Making a plan:
- Giving away prized possessions
- Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
- Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
- Unexpected rage or anger
My daughter displayed many of the above warning signs but we just attributed the signs to the changes that had been going on with our family. Our mistake could very well have cost us the life of our daughter. She was transferred to the Adolescent Behavioral Health unit at a local hospital and remained there for three days while we started making arrangements for counseling. We had to sit down with the rest of our children and explain what had happened, and then try answering all of their questions and trying to help them deal with their anger toward her. It was very difficult trying to help them and her while trying to deal with this ourselves. This road has been a long one and the journey isn't over yet, but at least things have evened out a little bit.
If your child displays any or all of the warning signs listed above, please sit down and try talking to them about what is going on, listen to what they tell you, and seek some form of professional help. Don't mistake their actions and behaviors for just simple teenage rebellion or typical teenage drama.
For a more in depth look at the warning signs, advice on what to do, and suicide prevention, please visit the following websites. If you think your child(ren) may be contemplating suicide do something about it before it's too late.