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  • Writer's pictureDr. Luisa Bryce

A slippery slope: Teen suicide in the wake of Paris Jackson’s recent cry for help

Earlier this week, Michael Jackson’s 15-year-old daughter Paris was rushed to the hospital after she reportedly cut herself with a kitchen knife and took approximately 20 Motrin. Did she attempt suicide? Or was she trying to get attention? The media certainly have their thoughts about this issue. In my professional opinion, it doesn’t really matter. Perhaps both are true. Perhaps Paris attempted suicide and was trying to get someone to pay attention and take her seriously. What does matter is the fact that this teenage girl is clearly suffering. Regardless of the actual intent, Paris Jackson’s recent actions warrant serious attention.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for tweens and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24, and it results in approximately 4600 lost lives each year. With numbers like this, suicide and suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide) should not be taken lightly. In my clinical work over the years, I’ve dealt with many suicidal adolescents, as well as teens who self-harm by cutting and burning their bodies. I talk to teens about suicide on a daily basis and I always ask very specific and blunt questions. Teens appreciate this. Their parents, however, are often shocked and horrified by my questions, as many seem to think talking about suicide will increase the chance of their teen committing suicide. This is untrue. Many teens resort to self-harm and suicidal ideation because they feel they can’t talk to their parents about their emotions. Suicidal ideation is often a cry for help and a way to say “Hey Mom and Dad, take me seriously. Try to understand me instead of freaking out.”

For the non-depressed person, suicide seems like a silly and illogical concept. In the heat of desperation and fear after a teen has attempted suicide or self-harm, I’ve heard parents say to their teen, “Why would you do something so stupid?” This type of statement is unhelpful and causes teens to feel even more invalidated and misunderstood. As a parent, instead of blaming or getting angry, validate your teen’s emotions. Really try to understand how they are feeling and try to avoid judgmental thoughts such as “She’s such a drama queen,” or “He is totally overreacting.” If your teen is not open to speaking with you, he or she can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

In my experience, depression and suicide go hand-in-hand. A teen can be depressed and not feel suicidal, but teens who are suicidal are almost always depressed. It can be tough to differentiate between teenage depression and normal adolescent moodiness, but luckily there’s an abundance of help out there, and your teen’s pediatrician or primary care doc can give you a referral to a psychologist. As a parent, you can also educate yourself about teenage mental health issues; just make sure your information sources are legit. Click Here for a list of Youth Suicide Links. For quick access in learning more about specific signs of teenage depression, self-harm, and suicide, click Here.

 Suicide is scary, but it’s preventable. Talk to your teen today.



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