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Dear Parents,

I know this post is long, but please take the time to read it to the end...

As children grow into teenagers, it becomes more challenging for you to know what they are thinking and feeling. Please take a few minutes to read the following warning signs for teen suicide, bullying and drug abuse:


Suicide is alarmingly common. It is the eighth leading cause of death for all people (accounting for about 1% of all deaths) and the third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24 (following accidents and homicide). The vast majority of suicides are related to emotional or psychiatric disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and others. Unsuccessful suicide attempts also are common and outnumber actual suicides.

While boys are more likely than girls to commit suicide, teens of both genders and all ages are at risk for suicide. It is especially tragic that the three leading causes of death in teens and young adults -- accident, homicide, and suicide -- all are preventable. Parents of teens should be aware of some of the warning signs of depression and suicide. The American Academy of Pediatrics describes the following signs that may signal that a depressed teen may be considering suicide:

  • withdrawal from friends and family members

  • trouble in romantic relationships

  • difficulty getting along with others

  • changes in the quality of schoolwork or lower grades

  • rebellious behaviors

  • unusual gift-giving or giving away own possessions

  • appearing bored or distracted

  • writing or drawing pictures about death

  • running away from home

  • changes in eating habits

  • dramatic personality changes

  • changes in appearance (for the worse)

  • sleep disturbances

  • drug or alcohol abuse

  • talk of suicide, even in a joking way

  • having a history of previous suicide attempts

If you're concerned about how to help a depressed teen, don't be afraid to talk to him or her about the problem. It can help to reassure them that they are loved and that you are available to help work out any problems. Be a good listener, don't judge, and don't dismiss any of your teen's concerns. It's OK to directly ask if he or she has ever thought of killing him or herself. If you suspect your teen is suicidal, seek professional help immediately. Ask your pediatrician or family physician for recommendations for treatment programs.

Remember: Threats of suicide or preoccupation with suicide are a medical emergency and should never be ignored. (Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD)


Here are possible warnings that a child may be bullied and needs your support. Of course, these signs could indicate other problems, but any of these warrant looking into further. See my blog, Signs of Cyber-bullying for signs of electronic bullying. Every child is different and any child can have an “off” day, so look instead of a pattern of behavior that is not typical for your child.

  • Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises and scrapes

  • Unexplained loss of toys, school supplies, clothing, lunches, or money

  • Clothes, toys, books, electronic items are damaged or missing or child reports mysteriously “losing” possessions

  • Doesn’t want to go to school or other activities with peers

  • Afraid of riding the school bus

  • Afraid to be left alone: wants you there at dismissal, suddenly clingy

  • Suddenly sullen, withdrawn, evasive; remarks about feeling lonely

  • Marked change in typical behavior or personality

  • Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed and that mood lasts with no known cause

  • Physical complaints; headaches, stomachaches, frequent visits the school nurse’s office

  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, cries self to sleep, bed wetting

  • Change in eating habits

  • Begins bullying siblings or younger kids. (Bullied children can sometimes flip their role and become the bully.)

  • Waits to get home to use the bathroom. (School and park bathrooms, because they are often not adult-supervised, can be hot spots for bullying).

  • Suddenly has fewer friends or doesn’t want to be with the “regular group”

  • Ravenous when he comes home. (Bullies can use extortion stealing a victim’s lunch money or lunch.) Sudden and significant drop in grades. (Bullying can cause a child to have difficulty focusing and concentrating.)

  • Blames self for problems; feels “not good enough”

  • Talks about feeling helpless or about suicide; runs away. (M. Borba)


There are many signs that a teen is using drugs. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the pangs of adolescence and actual drug use, but parents can be proactive in talking to their teen to find out what’s going on.

Some common signs of teen drug abuse include:

  • Bad grades

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Laughing for no reason

  • Loss of interest in activities

  • Poor hygiene

  • Diminished personal appearance

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Frequent hunger or “munchies”

  • Smell of smoke on breath or clothes

  • Secretive behavior

  • Unusual tiredness

  • Missing curfew

It’s up to parents to initiate a conversation with their children if they suspect drug use. One in five parents who suspect their teen is using drugs do not intervene to prevent further drug use.

Be involved in your children’s lives!

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