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Effective Strategies to Prevent Teen Depression and Suicide

University of Cincinnati researchers have reported on the positive connections that can help to protect teenagers and their families from the tragedy of suicide.

Untreated depression is one of the leading causes of teen suicide, and signs of depression can also be a warning that a teenager is contemplating suicide. In an article published this week in the quarterly journal, The Prevention Researcher, University of Cincinnati researchers described how positive connections can help offset these tragedies.

Keith King, Professor of Health Promotion, and Assistant Professor Rebecca Vidourek report on teen depression and suicidal behaviours being intricately intertwined, and write about untreated depression being a leading cause of adolescent suicide. Most depressed or suicidal teens tend to show warning signs and possess specific risk factors. A key component to preventing and treating teen depression is for adults to remain aware of those warning signs and risk factors and to appropriately intervene when needed.

The authors state that teen suicidal warning signs encompass three specific categories:

Behavioural warning signs – Traits that teenagers may display when contemplating suicide include:

  • difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping;
  • changes in school performance;
  • loss of interest in once pleasurable activities;
  • giving away cherished possessions ;and
  • expressing thoughts of death or suicide.

Verbal warning signs – Verbal statements include, “I want to die” “I don’t want to be a burden anymore" and “My family would be better off without me.”

Stressful life events – A traumatic event for a teenager, such as a relationship breakup, parental divorce or loss of a loved one.

Professors King and Vidourek also highlight research in the United States indicating that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered teenagers are at an elevated risk for depression and suicide, possibly because of lack of support systems and social acceptance, as well as greater isolation among peers.

The University of Cincinnati researchers say building strong connections with family, schools and the community are key to protection against depression and teen suicide: “Research clearly indicates family connectedness helps to prevent teen suicide, even if teens are socially isolated from peers,” write the authors. They add that because teens spend such a large amount of time in school, schools should adopt prevention and intervention programs that include education, early detection and follow-up programs to address teen depression and suicide.

“As research indicates, the key component to effective depression/suicide prevention is the development of positive social and emotional connections among teens and supportive adults,” conclude the authors of the article. “Thus, getting teens positively connected to positive people and positive situations should remain the goal.”

Editor’s note: original article by Dawn Fuller at University of Cincinnati – adapted for use on this website.

Information and Support for Depression

In a medical emergency call 000 in Australia or attend your nearest medical emergency department immediately.

In a medical emergency in New Zealand, call 111.

If you require immediate emotional help in Australia please contact either Lifeline on 13 11 14 or, if you are under 18 years old please call Kids Help Line on            1800 55 1800      . Both these services can help you or, if necessary, refer you to appropriate mental health support services.

Contact Details for Help in Australia