Know the signs that something’s wrong with your child
I have a 13-year-old son. The news this week on the shooting incident at SM North Edsa was pretty disturbing for a parent like me. I monitored the news to see how the story would develop and was deeply saddened by the loss of lives.
I was also disturbed by the fact that most of the stories were missing a crucial point. While I agree that mall security is an important issue, the more pressing issue I believe was how a 13-year-old had access to a gun, found himself in such profound sadness that he would be driven to pull the trigger not just on the object of his anger and affection but on himself too. I thought that was pretty alarming.
The incidence of violence, suicide especially, seems to be on the rise again among the youth. In the US a 14-year-old boy killed himself due to cyberbullying over issues of homosexuality. Here, this week, another girl, only 15, jumped to her death after feeling disconsolate for weeks over several problems.
In a university in Metro Manila, an informal study of 500 students showed that 40% of the students entertained thoughts of suicide the last six months or so.
The threat is real, but it is not being discussed in schools or in homes because it is taboo. But not talking about it will not make it go away; on the contrary, it may create more harm.
The recent tragedy could have been, or could still be used to create suicide awareness among adolescents, their parents and caregivers.
Dr. Elizabeth Espinosa Rondain, a psychiatrist at Makati Medical Center, said that suicide is always an offshoot of severe depression or profound sadness.
“Suicide will not take place if the person or child is not depressed,” said Rondain.
More often than not, the depression has been there for weeks, even months. Among teenagers, depression manifests itself in rebellious behavior such as stealing, using drugs or alcohol, anger, and confusion, or marked changes in behavior.
Rondain said that identity confusion in teenagers does not pertain only to issues of gender or sexuality.
“Teenagers are in a phase where they are constantly seeking approval, trying to fit in and find out who they are and where they belong,” she said. “Friendship and relationships is key in this age group.”
That explains why teenagers feel deeply about rejection. Other school or family issues could add to the teenagers’ sense of grief.
Here are some things parents must look out for if they sense something is going on in their teeners’ lives:
o A marked change in eating or sleeping habits.
o Withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities.
o Unusual neglect of personal appearance and hygiene.
o Marked personality change.
o Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or decline in grades or quality of schoolwork.
o Frequent complaints that are related to emotions such as stomachaches, headaches or fatigue.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, a teenager contemplating suicide will also often complain that he is a bad person who feels rotten inside, gives away his or her possessions as in “putting things in order,” or become suddenly cheerful after a long period of sadness.
It’s also worth looking into if there is a history of suicide in the family.
“There may really be a physiological reason behind it, or patterns within the family that need to be addressed and broken,” Rondain said.
She added that statements such as “I want to commit suicide” must never be taken in stride. “Try to probe and find out where the statement is coming from.” Better to be safe than sorry.
There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help from either a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist. If your child is behaving oddly, or showing signs of depression, seek help from those trained to deal with depression.
Address the problem. Do not be afraid to ask the hard questions because asking, in a kind and reassuring manner, will show your child that you care.
A parent must take time out to really know his/her child. It is not enough to provide for his/her material needs, the needs of the heart and the spirit must be addressed too.
The home, above all else, must be a safe harbor for every child, or teenager to return to after a tough day charting what can be the rough sea of adolescence.