They grow up fast don’t they? It was only yesterday that you were changing diapers and suddenly they’ve hit their tweens and now their teens. And with that comes a few hiccups and challenges that you might’ve read about. The truth is you’re never quite prepared for the many curveballs that comes from being a parent of a teenage child, least of all suicide. Cellnutrition’s own mental wellness expert broaches the topic of teenage suicide prevention with practical, hands-on advice on what to look out for with some insights on how best to potentially manage it.
All parents need to be reminded that they were once teenagers too. Just like you, your child’s body will start to undergo hormonal changes from between eight to 14 years of age. This is when the body prepares them for puberty, adolescence and eventually adulthood.
Neurotransmitters, produced mostly in what’s called the Limbic System, go into overdrive to stimulate hormone production such as Human Growth Hormone, Testosterone, Oestrogen and Progesterone during this time. Primary and secondary sexual characteristics become more pronounced. Some neurotransmitters are produced in excess or others not enough while your child starts to grow into their future self. Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin levels spike and fall with a seesaw effect. This is commonplace and often attributed to the mood swings that teenagers experience.
So, what’s changed? Context. The world we live in is constantly evolving and changing. We’re pushed to do more with less. The psycho-social and behavioural goalposts are constantly shifting too. Coupled with the uncertainty of certain scenarios presented by the likes of COVID-19 regulations, the pressure of ‘teenagedom’ might be little more pronounced than yesteryear.
Teenage suicide rates are currently experiencing a spike. Here are the tell-tale warning signs:
- A history of mental disorders in the family might make your teenage child more susceptible to experiencing them too. These include disorders such as Addiction and Eating Disorders, Anxiety, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity, Bipolar, Depression and Schizophrenia to name a few.
- Drastic changes in behaviour and mood that last two weeks or longer need to be noted.
- Talk of self-harm or speaking about the self in the past tense with phrases such as, “I just want to die”, “it doesn’t matter, I won’t be around for much longer anyway”. This might be accompanied by self-harming behaviours such as cutting.
- A severe trauma in the past such as extreme bullying, difficult divorces or break-up to the family unit or even previous sexual abuse of any kind.
- A disruption to the circadian rhythms including a notable and drastic change to your teenager’s sleep and wake cycles, eating patterns and hygiene routines. Severe and quick weight loss tend to be an early indicator.
- Frequent unexplained pains and aches in the body, headaches and stomach pains.
- Noticeable negative changes to school performance and academia in general.
- Becoming increasingly withdrawn from the family unit and preferring to cocoon and hermit.
- Hyper-arousal to any external stimulus which might trigger him or her to extreme outbursts of anger and behaviours that are disruptive and unexplainable.
- General undeniably dishonourable behaviours such as constant lying, cheating, stealing or drug and alcohol misuse and abuse.
Certain behaviours are to be expected. We can expect experimentation as your teenager looks to create his or her own identity and express it. Boundaries are more than likely going to be tested to their limits in these tween years where your teenager is no longer a child and not yet an adult. As a parent your job is to be mindful, vigilant and to trust your intuition. Although prevention is prized over intervention, the latter may be needed when these undesirable behaviours are consistent and persistent.
Nobody can or should tell you how to parent, only provide guidance. Here are a few preventative measures you might want to consider:
- Create a safe space for your teenager to explore and express without judgement.
- Try not to control the outcome or create expectations. Let him or her feel free to express feelings and emotions openly. Leave your own preconceived ideas at the door and listen intently and actively. Check for subtext.
- ‘Thank you for sharing’ is a powerful phrase. It often leaves the other person feeling like they have been heard and open to sharing what’s going on inside more openly again, your teenage child included.
- Create boundaries such as curfews, screen time (mobile, computer, gaming, television), limits on piercings and tattoos, birth control and belief systems for example, together. These provide structure. Agree on the consequences should the boundaries be overstepped, together, and then follow-through.
- Check for patterns in routine and behaviours. Do not be nervous to express your concern about sudden changes. Your child is more aware and savvier than you might believe. Speak to him or her like you would an adult. Always come from a higher place of kindness, love and understanding.
- Where and when possible, create a routine. Try your best to eat one meal as family unit together per day.
- Walk your talk. Talk openly and freely. Where possible, use positive and emotive language. Don’t be afraid to ask for your teenager child’s opinion either.
Sometimes, an intervention may be required. This is often done first via your General Medical Practitioner who should refer your teenager for a psychiatric evaluation. Medication such as mood stabilisers and anti-depressants may be required in some instances.
Should you opt for a more natural route, such as a natural mineral supplement like Cellnutrition Quinton Isotonic which helps bring the body back into balance and supports digestive health which can be associated with mood. You may also want to consider the benefits of 5-HTP, or 5-Hydroxytryptophan also sometimes referred to as Oxitriptan. It’s a naturally occurring amino acid that is the pre-cursor to the production and regulation of the hormone Serotonin. It’s often used as a natural supplement to assist with Anxiety, Depression, Mood Stabilisation and Sleep Disorders.
It is best used with a plant based Omega369 such as Cellnutrition Omegabiocell369 +Vitamin E, a 100% plant-based Omega oil, providing the highest concentration of Omega 3, 6 and 9 from four plant oils. These are essential for optimising the health and functioning of your brain and play a role in mood stabilisation.
However, medications and supplements are best used in conjunction with talk-therapy by qualified psychotherapists. And remember that it is best to check the interaction of any medication or supplement with your Doctor as well.