The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 and the sixth leading cause of death for people ages five to 15.
Adolescents can be withdrawn emotionally. It may be difficult for a parent to know if her son is being moody or is considering harming himself. Possible signs of suicidal ideation include—but are not limited to:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Severe anxiety; panic attacks
- Agitation; irritability
- A change in appetite and weight
- Lack of motivation
Reading the signs
If a parent worries his son may have suicidal thoughts, it is imperative he talk to his boy. But do not conclude the young man is suicidal—this can make a bad situation worse. Parents must talk to their son in order to find out what is going on in his life. To an adolescent, his troubles may seem all encompassing. In truth, his brain has not fully matured. It has an underdeveloped impulse control apparatus. His brain lacks the ability to see the entire picture. It and the boy need an adult to lend perspective.
Causes of suicidal ideation
Mental health issues, traumatic events, genetics—these can produce suicidal tendencies. The psychological disorders typically responsible for exacerbating suicidal thoughts include major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder, dysthymia, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotic disorders and paranoid personality disorders. People with bipolar disorder are prone to suicidal ideation. They may form the idea during a depressive phase but typically attempt suicide during a manic phase, according to mentalhealth.com.
The brain of a drug-dependent adolescent skews toward pleasure seeking—the result of rewired neural networks. When the brain’s pleasure center is denied stimulation from drugs, the ensuing depression is more profound than normal depression. This type of depression can give rise to suicidal thoughts. Some prescription drugs also increase suicidal ideation. Zoloft and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors—SSRIs—can increase suicidal thoughts when taken at doses higher than recommended levels. The Journal of the American Medical Association notes teens are twice as likely to exhibit suicidal behavior when taking antidepressants at higher than prescribed doses.
A young man who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event can develop a multitude of anxiety-based disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD. A person with untreated PTSD is a ticking time bomb. For a youth with untreated PTSD, navigating the corridors of high school is fraught with peril. Bullying may trigger an emotional breakdown. Academic pressures, the pressures to fit in, social anxiety, hormones, sexual urges—everyday concerns for any young person can manifest into emotional upheaval.
A traumatic event can be an automobile accident or a severe injury from sports. Witnessing domestic violence or an act of violence. Being the victim of a violent crime, particularly when a firearm is involved. These and countless more can cause a normal, healthy teenage boy to recoil into himself.
Depression is hereditary. Children whose parents have a history of depression are at greater risk of developing the disease than children with no family history of mental illness. A young man who grows up in a madly dysfunctional household is at greater risk for developing depression or other mental illnesses than a boy who is reared in a stable, nurturing environment. Young men who have depression or other mental illnesses are more likely to self-harm than youths without these conditions.
WRA’s approach to treatment
Chemical imbalances in the brain and negative thoughts can trigger suicidal ideation. Antidepressants help regulate serotonin levels, making cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavioral therapy and group therapy more effective.
White River Academy complements therapy with outdoor activities to provide a balanced treatment program. For more information about our therapeutic approaches to resolving the underlying causes of suicidal ideation, call 866-300-0616. One of our admission team specialists will walk you through WRA’s philosophy for treating young men with substance abuse, mental health and behavioral health issues.