Teens and Suicide

By Alice Crider
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
For illustrative purposes only Ñ Helder Almeida/iStock/Thinkstock
With the prevalence of teen suicides, parents can't help but wonder, even worry, about their teen and depression. 
Kristen Anderson’s friends and family were aware that she was unhappy and struggling with life in high school, but none of them knew the depths of her depression. No one expected her to attempt suicide. Yet one cold night in Chicago, 17-year-old Kristen chose to end her life by lying down in front of an oncoming freight train. Miraculously, Kristen survived. She lost both her legs on the railroad tracks, but as she recovered from the ordeal, she discovered the life-transforming power of hope in Christ. In her book, Life, in Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice, Kristen recounts the nightmare of her suicide attempt and the miracle of her survival. Today, she speaks publicly about her experience, encouraging others who suffer from depression.

Suicidal thoughts

Not all teens, however, have that second chance. With the prevalence of teen suicides, parents can’t help but wonder, even worry, about their teen and depression. I remember the day I came across a note my daughter had written and thrown in the trash. In it, my then 16-year-old wrote about how she didn’t think life was worth living, and she detailed how she might end it. How could her life be so bad that she wants to die? I asked myself. Gripped with fear, I called some friends to ask them to pray, and one of them recommended I contact a counselor. I made an appointment right away and soon learned that when someone makes a plan like my daughter did, she is likely to attempt to carry it out. As a result of good counseling, my daughter is alive and well today. But not all parents find clues. Not every depressed or suicidal person displays obvious signs, which include withdrawal from family or friends, destructive behavior, mood swings or poor eating and sleeping habits. Yet recent studies show that 15 percent of high school students report thoughts of suicide; 11 percent plan to attempt suicide; 7 percent have attempted it in the past year.

Preventing tragedy 

How can parents prevent a tragedy they may not see coming? Communication is a powerful tool, and asking questions is a good place to start. Consider casually bringing up the subject. Start by mentioning that you’ve heard about high teen-suicide rates. Then ask what your teen’s thoughts are about suicide. Is she concerned about any of her friends or classmates? Has anyone at her school attempted suicide? Sometimes just getting a sensitive topic out in the open can defuse its destructive power.  Be sure to listen without lecturing or judging. Be a safe place for your teen to express her thoughts. Especially listen for what she may say about her own life. If your teen says she is depressed, she hates her life or she feels like there is no point to living, take her words seriously. If she admits to having suicidal thoughts, validate her for opening up to you and express gratitude that she’s willing to talk about it. If you are seriously concerned that your teen is depressed or suicidal, contact a professional counselor immediately. You need support for yourself as well as help for your teen.

Imperfect hope

As you converse with your teen, keep in mind that she needs a hope-filled vision for her future. By the teen years, kids understand that they’re living in an imperfect, hurtful world, yet they aren’t fully equipped to handle emotional pain. They may be tempted to believe that life is never going to get better. Without a vision, despair sets in. By helping your teen envision a bright future, you also inspire hope for today. Consider asking your teen, “After you finish high school, what do you want to do with your life?” or “What are some ways you can use your life to make a difference for others?” You could also talk about events in the near future, such as a family vacation or a shopping excursion. Any picture that offers something to look forward to is a good picture.  Teens desperately need to know they matter, especially to their parents. Assure your adolescent that he is of immeasurable value to you and your family. Look beyond his imperfect exterior to see the qualities that you admire. Create opportunities to tell your teen that you believe in him, God has a plan for his life and he is capable of contributing to the world. Seize every opportunity to show him that he is loved unconditionally, and encourage him to simply live one day at a time. Above all, pray! Remember that God loves your teen even more than you do. He wants to provide wisdom to help your teen, and He wants to restore joy in the heart of your teen.

Get help

If you are dealing with a depressed teen or you need help regarding the threat of suicide in your family, you can e-mail us at [email protected] or call 800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time).
Alice Crider is an editor and life coach, who enjoys spending time with her four adult children and two grandsons.

Copyright © 2011 by Alice Crider. Used by permission.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.