Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teenagers, but it is still difficult to predict exactly what may trigger the suicidal thoughts. Often factors such as an existing mental illness, loneliness, bullying, exposure to violence or trauma, inability to cope with stress or a family history of suicide are cited as some of the leading causes, but the basic parental behavior is often left ignored.
According to a presentation by two professors from University of Cincinnati (UC) at the 2017 annual conference of American Public Health Association in Atlanta, teenagers who felt that there was no active participation of their parents in their lives, and who showed no interest in their emotional well-being, were more susceptible to suicide, compared to those teenagers whose parents were actively involved in their lives.
For their analysis, Professors Keith King and Rebecca Vidourek did a follow-up data analysis of the results obtained from a national survey done in 2012, called the “2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” This survey involved children (aged 12 and above) and provided national and state level data on the use of various substances and the mental health status in the U.S. Their analysis revealed a significant link between suicidal thoughts among adolescents and parental behavior.
Parents’ behavior and teen suicides
Although the survey used in the study was based on the perception of the teenagers about the behavior of their parents, researchers acknowledged that when it came to suicidal ideation and attempts, these perceptions played an important role in driving them towards suicide.
As per their findings, children aged between 12 and 17, whose parents did not engage in behavior that demonstrated their concern or care for their child(ren), were more likely to consider, plan and attempt suicide. Those most affected by the behavior of their parents, were aged 12 and 13 years. An unusually high risk of suicide was observed in those children, whose parents rarely ever helped them with their homework or appreciated them on job well done.
Based on the information provided by the study authors, those teens, aged 16 and 17 years, whose parents rarely or never said that they were proud of them, were found to be three times more likely to have thoughts related to suicides and four times more likely to plan and attempt suicide. According to Prof. King, teens were also more likely to try drugs or engage in risky sexual behavior if the parents were not adequately engaged.
Parents need to get involved
King stressed on the importance of authoritative “direct communication” and “direct interactions” between the parent(s) and the adolescent. While parents thought that they were involved in the emotional well-being of their child, but from the perspective of the child, they really were not. Apart from a clear communication, the parents should get involved in every aspect of their child’s life, and expressing pride.
According to professor King, the children need to know that “someone’s got their back,” however, many of them do not and that is a major problem. As per Vidourek, the key was to ensure that the child felt positively connected to his/her parents and family.
We can help
Suicides are a major health concern, but is totally preventable. If you know someone who has expressed their feeling, even if a fleeting one, of having suicidal thoughts, the immediate step should be seeking professional help.
California Mental Health Help can assist you with fast and accessible information pertaining to mental health help basis your needs and suggest appropriate treatment options. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 559-3923 or chat online with our experts to know about the finest mental health centers in California.