Speaking Up and Recognizing the Critical Signs of Teen Suicide

Written by Jude Platzer

To this day, suicide is still very much a topic surrounded by myth and taboo and spoken of only in hushed tones. It’s a difficult subject to broach especially with parents concerned about their moody teens, but one that is essential to discuss if we are to prevent more tragic deaths. The tragedy of losing a child to suicide inevitably leaves parents with many largely unanswerable questions which will haunt them for many years to come.

“Why did we not manage to save him? Why did we not see the signs? What more could we have done?”

Now we must ask ourselves how we can prevent more of these needless deaths. The many articles in the press following recent suicides in the hockey community have given us permission to discuss suicide more openly and to try to understand it. It’s critical that our youth and those around them are educated about prevention and awareness of suicide. When people are armed with the knowledge of potential signs of suicide, they understand how to listen and get help for a friend in deep distress.

Someone who is suicidal is in deep emotional pain and may see death as their only option. Youth sometimes lack the life experience to see beyond the moment, and their thinking at this age is often very black and white. Students must be reminded that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and that things do get better.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in BC youth. With open dialogue and education we can dispel the myths around suicide, learn how to help those suffering, and prevent more needless deaths.

Warning Signs

• Change in personality
• Withdrawal from social activities
• Boredom
• Dropping out of hobbies or sports
• Mood swings, irritability
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Talking of death and suicide
• Giving away valued possessions
• Increase in drug and alcohol use
• Changes in sleeping and eating patterns

Where to Find Help

• Suicide prevention hotline-1-800-784-2433
• Toll free province wide Crisis Line 1-866-661-3311
• SAFER-604-675-3985(Suicide attempt follow up education & Research Programme)
• Vancouver Crisis Centre 604-872-3311

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About the author

Jude Platzer

Jude Platzer is the director and founder of The Josh Platzer Society, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate British Columbia youth and those around them about prevention and awareness of suicide. Since her son’s tragic suicide death, 13 years ago, she has given hundreds of presentations to students, counselors and health professionals about suicide prevention, what to look for and how to help. By openly speaking about her experience she helps to break down century’s old stigma and taboos about suicide thus bringing hope and healing to others who are living with depression as well as to those who have been bereaved by suicide. She has been nominated for the Canadian Medical Association Award for Excellence in Health Promotion, the United Way W.J Van Dusen Community Service Award and is the recipient of a BC Community Achievement Award (2008). She lives in Vancouver with her husband and 24 year old daughter.