The transition from childhood to adulthood is often challenging and tumultuous, and it is during this period that some teenagers and young adults first experience depression and suicidal thoughts. Sadly, depression is a much more widespread problem than most people think, and suicide is actually the for people between the ages of 10 and 24.
Not every young adult will suffer from depression or contemplate suicide, of course, but it’s important for parents to pay attention to their child’s behavior as he or she gets older and to allow for open and honest communication. Parents can be better prepared to support a child who may be depressed or suicidal by educating themselves about these mental health issues.
Here are just a few of the questions that parents of young adults often have about depression and suicide, accompanied by answers from the mental health treatment center Yellowbrick.
Question: How do I know if my child is depressed?
Answer: It is not always obvious that a young adult is depressed as opposed to just “going through a moody phase,” and there are no reliable indicators of an impending suicide attempt, but there are some common signs that could mean someone is experiencing depression. These might include a loss of interest in activities that your child once enjoyed, isolation from friends and family, changes in sleeping patterns (either lack of sleep or excessive sleep), changes in appetite or eating patterns, low energy levels, or sudden mood swings. Some young adults may also attempt to use drugs and alcohol to cope with depression. Substance abuse is not necessarily an indicator of suicidal thoughts, but it does increase the risk of a depressed individual attempting suicide.
Question: What might my child be going through after a suicide attempt?
Answer: It is not uncommon for young adults to experience feelings of shame and guilt after a failed suicide attempt. These feelings may cause them to withdraw from their loved ones further, increasing their actual or perceived social isolation. Unfortunately, young adults who have attempted suicide once have a higher risk for another attempt, as the first attempt may have a gateway effect on the risk-reward center of the brain.
Question: How can I best support my child after a suicide attempt?
Answer: Because a young adult who has attempted suicide may be experiencing shame, one of the most valuable things you can do as a parent is to demonstrate your unconditional acceptance of your child. Offer to support your child in whatever way he or she needs at this time, and talk to your child about seeing a therapist or counselor. Empathize with your child even if they are experiencing frustration and anger, and let them know that they can talk to you without fear of being judged.