Can you spot suicidal warning signs in your child?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) Utah’s youth suicide rate increased four times faster than the national average, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control. 

The warning signs are out there, according to experts, if parents know what to look for. 

Valley Behavioral Health’s Dr. Todd Thatcher said few kids can hide how they’re feeling. Even while they may not come out and say they’re feeling suicidal, their actions usually will.

“It breaks my heart that we are continuing to lose people of all ages, but especially our youth,” Taryn Hiatt said. 

At the age of 12, Hiatt first tried to kill herself. 

“I felt so alone in it. I felt shame, too. Nobody was talking about it,” Hiatt said. 

She cut herself and abused drugs and alcohol. Tell-tale signs she was struggling.   

“It released some of that pain that I felt inside that I didn’t know how to put a voice to,” said Hiatt who now the area director for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

“For a lot of those earlier years, between ten and 15, they may not even understand what they’re feeling and what they’re going through,” Dr. Thatcher said. 

While at risk for suicide, Dr. Thatcher said youth may have dramatic personality changes or suddenly withdraw from friends and family. They may also rebel or take risks. Grades could drop and they may sleep more.  

Common triggers for suicide include a breakup, losing friends, bullying or parent’s divorce. 

“Use the brutal terms because this is literally a life and death situation,” Dr. Thatcher said.  

Dr. Thatcher advises parents to talk directly and ask if they’re thinking about killing themselves. It’s also critical to be supportive, says Hiatt.

“Most of us are exhibiting signs because we want somebody to ask us the question because we want help to stay alive, we just don’t know how to do it on our own,” said Hiatt. 

Parents are advised to call their family’s pediatrician, primary care physician, or a behavioral health clinic. 

Free and confidential help is available at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The SafeUT app connects users to a crisis counselor in Utah.

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