It can be difficult for parents to differentiate between teenagers’ normal expressions of negative feelings, and signs of suicidal risk. Gene Beresin and Steve Schlozman, child and adolescent psychiatrists at Massachusetts General Hospital, explain that alarming comments and behavior don’t always indicate imminent danger: “Sometimes kids say something. Sometimes they post a frightening array of hopeless lyrics on Facebook. And most of the time — and this is important — kids don’t do anything to hurt themselves. Morbid lyrics and even suicidal sentiments are surprisingly common in adolescence.” However, they strongly encourage following up on such behaviors by talking directly with teens to learn more about their condition, and by consulting with mental health professionals. Research shows that asking young people directly about their possible suicidal feelings does not increase suicide risk but instead provides relief. The doctors also provide specific suggestions in this article for how to approach such a conversation.
Check out Parents as Partners: A Suicide Prevention Guide for Parents, a nine-page booklet by Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE).