How Should Parents Discuss Depression and Suicide With Their Teen

How Should Parents Discuss Depression and Suicide With Their Teen
How Should Parents Discuss Depression and Suicide With Their Teen


The statistics on the number of troubled teens that are battling depression, stress, and sadness are staggering.

These struggling teens are at a high risk for suicide and, in fact, the CDC states than average of 8% of American teens will attempt suicide each year. Furthermore, it is the second leading cause of death for children and young teens aged 10 to 24 years old. Even with these sobering numbers, the stigma surrounding suicide and negative mental health is so overwhelming that many teens do not get the help they need. It is up to you, as parents, to talk to your teens about depression and suicide, so you can help before it becomes a serious problem.

Honesty and Clarity

It is important to actively listen to your teen and validate how they feel. Show your teen that you recognize and are understanding what they are telling you, and use active listening techniques – such as body language and summarizing – to show that you are paying attention. Ask clarifying questions when pertinent. Listen without judgment, or they will be reluctant to tell you anything further.

Additionally, check for all of the signs of depression and suicide, such as:

(1) Talking or joking about suicide

(2) Saying things like “I’d be better off dead.”

(3) Romanticizing death

(4) Giving away prized possessions

(5) Speaking to parents and relatives as though saying ‘goodbye’ for the last time.

If you worry that your teen is suffering from depression, talk to them about it right away. Even if you are unsure that depression is the true culprit, the worrisome behavior and emotions that they are exhibiting require immediate attention and are signs of a much larger problem. Whether or not the issue turns out to be depression, everything still needs to be addressed, and the sooner that is done the better.

In a loving, yet obviously non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your teenager. Let him or her know what signs you have seen, and explain why they are worrying you. Then, encourage them to open up to you and share what they are going through. Try to not “freak out” when they tell you how they feel. Instead, communicate openly and effectively, and ask clarifying questions. Ask them what is going on, how they feel, and find out how you can help. Develop a communication plan that works well for the both of you, and remind your teen that they can talk to you without any judgment.

If you are unable to get through to your teen on your own, Wingate Wilderness Therapy may be the best solution. Unlike most wilderness-based treatment programs, Wingate does not use level systems, group punishments, or any other behavior-modification techniques. Instead, Wingate seeks out the internal motivation that relies upon a profound therapeutic alliance between your teen and the therapeutic change. If you feel that your teen struggles with depression and suicide, contact Wingate today, and watch your teen engage in profound life changes on a daily basis.