A Letter to Parents of Teens

“Why is it so hard to go to your parents if you are struggling with suicidal thought?”

I provide suicide prevention presentations to an average of 6,000 teens a year. I teach the warnings signs and are helpful resources. Although it seems like common sense that a teen would go to their parent when they need help, we know that’s not always the case. In every presentation, I ask, “Why is it so hard to go to your parents if you are struggling with suicidal thought?”

Here are a few things that teens share with me class after class, school after school, year after year - and what you can do.

“I don’t want to disappoint them.”

Teens tell me that they know their parents are dealing with a lot - and teens are afraid of adding to the chaos. We need to model and teach our teens that it is okay to ask for help. When you are having an emotional day, take time to talk to your significant other, your children, a friend, or family member. If you need to see a counselor, try to be open about it with your family. Make sure your teens see you doing this. Our actions speak louder than words.

“They don’t believe me.”

Our teens are fearful that they will be called drama queens or sissies if they reach out for help, or that their pain will be minimized or laughed at. When adults say things like, “They just want attention,” my response is always, “Yes, they do, give it to them!” If your teen is acting out, withdrawing, or posting on social media in a way you don’t understand or agree with, take the time to listen to why they are doing what they are doing. When you teen says they are thinking of suicide, take them seriously.

“They will never leave me alone again.”

Yes, once you hear that your teen has considered suicide, it will be hard not to hover around them, trying to keep them safe. This, however, is often a tricky balancing act. Instead of helicopter-parenting your teen, try empowering them. This will also empower you. Make sure that your teen knows they can come to you at any time, but also give them skills to help them help themselves. Encourage your teens to seek help from a trusted adult; add crisis numbers to their phones. Teach them that help is just a text or phone call away.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, contact the statewide crisis hotline, 844.493.TALK (8255) or North Range Behavioral Health at 970.347.2120, or walk into 920 12th Street in Greeley anytime, day or night. You may also text TALK to 38255. Additionally, you can call the National Suicide Hotline at 800.273.TALK (8255) or text START to 741741. For more information on suicide education programs and support for those whose live are touched by suicide, call SESS at 970.313.1089.

SESS is a program of North Range Behavioral Health that educates teens, adults, and organizations about mental health issues, seeks to prevent suicide, and supports those who have survived the suicide of a family member, friend, co-worker, classmate, or community member.

Kimberly Pratt, M.A.
Project Coordinator, Suicide Education and Support Services, North Range Behavioral Health

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