There are three reasons why teens want to kill themselves. One is that they are so demoralized and depressed and they think that nothing will ever change and nothing they do can make a difference. They feel helplessness and hopelessness. The second reason is that they want to get even with somebody. It’s a very immature way to punish someone else. The teen will believe that others will realize how important she was and they’ll be sad for the rest of their lives. In adolescence there’s still a strong belief in what we call magical thinking. It’s like believing in Santa Claus – something that’s out of reality but we take it as true. They’ll be visualizing people at their funeral and there’s some sense that they’re going to be there. There’s also a lack of a sense of permanence with suicide. The third reason is purely to avoid some kind of consequence of their actions. There are kids who have tried to commit suicide because they got pregnant and they didn’t want to tell their parents. They didn’t know how to cope and they thought there would be such humiliation, embarrassment and disappointment, that suicide was a better option.
If you see any of these signs, first, you need to talk to the child about whatever your concern is. You might get resistance initially, but you need to be ready for that. Say, “Hey look, I know that you don’t want me in your business, but I want to be supportive and I want to be sure things are cool. I don’t need to know everything you’re thinking, but as someone who loves and cares about you, I’m going to need to know that you are okay.” If the child breaks down in tears or gives you an indication that there’s a problem, you should get them into therapy. Keep at it until they talk to you.