Pediatricians Now Urged to Screen for Suicide -- Because Loving Our Kids Isn't Always Enough

Nurse Treating Teenage Girl Suffering With Depression

Any parent knows how difficult it can be navigating life as a teen -- which makes the thought of someone's son or daughter taking his or her own life absolutely heartbreaking. Now that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teenagers, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging doctors to screen teens for suicide risk, which just might save a life.


Chilling doesn't even begin to describe the "Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents" report published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics. While most of us are aware of the common risk factors associated with teen suicide -- including abuse (physical or sexual), family history, drug and alcohol use, and identifying as LGBTQ -- the AAP report highlights bullying as one of the major determining factors on whether or not a teenager will decide to take his or her own life. (Excessive Internet use has also been flagged as a possible link to suicidal thoughts and even depression.)

As Dr. Benjamin Shain, lead author of the report, states:

Bullying has always been a major issue for adolescents, but there is now greater recognition of the connection between bullying and suicide. The Internet is a key influence, as well. Cyberbullying, for example, is as serious a problem as face-to-face bullying.

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No matter our disbelief -- or how much we tell ourselves, "Not my child" -- suicide, and suicide attempts, are very scary realities that affect so many of our children. This is why the AAP has updated past guidelines on identifying teens at risk of self-harm and are pushing for more pediatricians to screen teen patients.

After all, don't our children deserve the additional effort?

(That answer is a resounding YES.)

I'm still trying to process the fact that suicide is now the second-highest cause for teens' leaving this earth. It makes me think back to my days in high school, the issues and internal battles I dealt with, and how I would be as a teenager today -- living in a world full of modern technology that makes communication (both good and bad) instantaneous.

Then I picture my two young sons, and how life will be for them once they enter into adolescence. (The AAP reports the suicide rate among teen boys is three times higher than for teen girls, though girls make more suicide attempts.) Will the love I have for them be enough to comfort them in times of trouble? Will they come to me should they ever feel as if life is just too hard to bear?

I can only hope and pray the answer is yes.

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Having a teen's doctor in his or her corner asking questions in efforts to screen for suicide risk is a no-brainer to me. Sometimes, children don't feel close to their parents -- or don't have a willingness to open up about things troubling them. Suicide screening can make a difference and become another resource for teens to put in their quivers.

It really does take a village to raise a child, and the more open arms and listening ears we can give to our sons and daughters, the more we can fight against teen suicide ...


If your teen or someone you know has expressed suicidal thoughts, please let them know they are not alone. Text START to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at The Trevor Project has crisis intervention and support for any LGBTQ teens who need to talk.



Image via Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

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