If you are concerned about your friend, son or daughter, or a youth where you play a role in their life, you are already on the right path. Caring, listening, and showing concern is the first step. Next, ask yourself the following questions. Has your friend, son or daughter, someone you care about shown or shared any of the following:
- Talk about wanting to die, be dead, or about suicide, or are they cutting or burning themselves?
- Feeling like things may never get better, seeming like they are in terrible emotional pain (like something is wrong deep inside but they can’t make it go away), or they are struggling to deal with a big loss in their life?
- Or is your gut telling you to be worried because they have withdrawn from everyone and everything, have become more anxious or on edge, seem unusually angry, or just don’t seem normal to you?
Youth Warning Signs
1. Talking about or making plans for suicide
2. Expressing hopelessness about the future
3. Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress
4. Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:
- Withdrawal from or changing in social connections/situations
- Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
- Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
- Recent increased agitation or irritability
If you know someone who has any of the warning signs, there are things that you can do to help:
1. Ask them if they are okay and listen to them like a true friend.
2. Tell them you are worried and concerned about them and that they are not alone.
3. Talk to an adult you trust about your concerns and direct the adult to this page.
Parent or Caregiver ways to respond
If you notice any of these warning signs in anyone, you can help!
1. Ask if they are ok or if they are having thoughts of suicide.
2. Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior.
3. Listen attentively and non-judgmentally.
4. Reflect on what they share and let them know they have been heard.
5. Tell them they are not alone.
6. Let them know there are treatments available that can help.
7. Guide them to professional help.
Life is full of stressors for youth and families and comes in many forms. When things happen in life that we are unable to navigate with ease, sometimes a person can become overwhelmed.
Stress comes in many forms and not all stress is negative. When stressors or things that happen in life that we are unable to navigate with ease happen, sometimes a person can become overwhelmed. Often youth do not have the skills to manage the stress they feel in their lives. As parents and caregivers, we occasionally forget that youth don’t have the “years of experience” to manage when things don’t go as expected in their lives.
We cannot always prepare for every stressful life event that may come our way, however we can help tweens, teens, and young adults by having conversations about possible stresses that may occur. Helping a young person navigate stress can help support building lifelong skills. Suggestions to do this include:
- Listen without judgement
- Help the youth problem solve and ask how they may want to handle the situation
- Ask how you can help or support, without rushing to fix the issue or problem
- Offer suggestions when asked, avoiding the “it’s not a big deal” adult viewpoint
- Check back in with the youth see how the situation resolved and to see how things are going and they are feeling
Common life stressors for tweens, teens, and young adults
- Self-Worth: Feelings of failing or disappointing others; Becoming a burden to others; needing others to take time to help them, not meeting perceived expectations
- Getting in or expecting to get in trouble: at home, school, with friends
- Relationship losses: breakups, friendships
- Family stressors: new or ongoing conflict with family members, family financial stressors, disappointing someone they care about
- Social shifts: friend group changes, embarrassing situations, moving schools/ homes, not fitting in to a group
- Medical Issues: newly diagnosed illnesses, chronic conditions
- Mental Health: undiagnosed mental health diagnosis, untreated mental health issues, worrying about being different
- School: not being to keep up, not feeling as they are living up to expectations made by family or those they feel important; not making/getting cut from teams, clubs, groups
- Cultural: not having the same beliefs as family, feeling like you are rejected, or not fitting in anymore
- Grief/Loss: losing someone or something you care about; this can be a person, pet, or an item or privilege that matters to the youth
- Abuse: physical, verbal, or sexual abuse either reported or unreported without effective treatment