Assessing your Child for Self-Harming Behaviors

Dr. Stephanie Larsen

If you notice that your child is currently demonstrating symptoms of increased sadness or changes in emotions or behaviors, it is important to openly ask your child about their experience with depression and suicidal thoughts. Opening the lines of communication and specifically inviting discussion of suicide encourages others to speak candidly of their feelings while limiting stigma or fears of overwhelming others.  Over 11% of children under the age of 18 have struggled with bouts of depression and when a child or adolescent experiences depressed and overwhelming feelings, suicidal thoughts may occur. Some warning signs of potential suicidal individuals included reported sadness, fixation on death and dying, feeling that nobody understands, being bullied, commenting on being overwhelmed, decreased self-esteem, fatigue, giving away possessions or terminating social media sites, mood swings, hopelessness, increased drug or alcohol use, impulsiveness, reckless behaviors, tearfulness, difficulties concentrating, withdrawal from peers and previously enjoyed activities. It is important that if you or your child experience any combination of the above symptoms that you seek additional support and therapy.  Also, you can play a crucial role in the community by encouraging individuals you may know who are struggling to seek ongoing support and therapy services.  In crisis you may contact 911 or go directly to a hospital.  In situations where suicidal thoughts are occurring and an individual is not actively acting on these thoughts they may benefit from a suicidal hotline such as 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.  Individual support and interventions are most effective in eliminating depressive disorders and moving away from suicidal thoughts.  Specialists who work with children, adolescents, and adults with depression and suicidal thoughts can be found at Palm Beach Behavioral Health and Wellness.