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suicidal ideation in teens

Suicidal Ideation in Teens: Knowing the Signs

Suicidal Ideation in Teens: Knowing the Signs 2560 1707 Solstice RTC

The adolescent years can be especially challenging for teens. Their bodies are changing at a rapid rate and they have to deal with new emotional behaviors as their brains continue to develop. In addition to the physical and mental changes, they are also experiencing changes in peer dynamics. Friendships may become more complicated as peer pressure increases, and they may be dealing with their first experiences with romantic relationships as well. It is not surprising that all of those big changes and emotions can trigger mental health struggles for teens. During this time in their lives, some teen girls and assigned females at birth begin to show signs of depression or even suicidal ideation. 

What is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation, also known as suicidal thoughts, exists in two forms – active and passive. Active suicidal ideation means that the person is actively planning their death. In passive suicidal ideation, the person has thoughts of death but no plan to kill themselves. Most people experiencing this struggle don’t follow through with committing suicide. However, it’s considered a risk factor for suicide and must be taken very seriously.

Many teens who experience suicidal ideation also have mental health conditions. As a result, they have trouble coping with the stress of being a teen, such as dealing with rejection, failure, breakups, and family turmoil. They may not be able to conceptualize that there are ways that they can solve their problems or get back on track. That feeling of hopelessness can lead to suicidal ideation. Suicidal thoughts can take an emotional toll. For instance, teens may be so consumed by suicidal thoughts that they can’t function in their daily life. 

Risk Factors and Causes

Suicidal ideation, according to researchers, is caused by a combination of risk factors that come together to influence suicidal thoughts. These risk factors and causes can include:

  • Environmental factors: Being caught in a stressful situation such as expulsion, a parental divorce or moving to another place can trigger suicidal ideation in teens who already struggle with their mental health. 
  • Genetic factors: Psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia, are passed down to teens through the genes of family members. These disorders are known to cause suicidal ideation in those suffering from them. Substance abuse is also genetically linked, which also causes suicidal ideation.
  • Trauma: Left untreated, a history of physical or sexual abuse or exposure to violence can lead to suicidal ideation. These teens may be dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, or emotional and physical triggers. 
  • Physical factors: Lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin have been found in people with suicidal ideation. Additionally, people with terminal diseases may experience suicidal ideation.
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of loved ones: Seeing the suicidal behavior in a familiar setting may influence some people to experience suicidal ideation themselves.
  • A lack of healthy coping skills: People with poor coping skills might turn to suicidal ideation as a way out of whatever struggle they are dealing with.

This article published by The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health further explains these risk factors and possible causes. 

Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

Watching out for symptoms of suicidal ideation in your teen is important in preventing them from taking further steps towards suicide. According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, depressive symptoms that relate to suicidal ideation can include:

  • Talking about death excessively. This could also include consuming media such as books, tv shows, or movies that center around death or suicide. 
  • The desire for isolation. Withdrawing from friends and family is a way to hide their struggles from the people around them. They may feel that they are not worth anyone else’s attention, or that they don’t deserve help. 
  • Sense of calm or happiness after a period of depression. Highs and lows can mask symptoms of depression. That sense of calm may come from the fact that they are thinking about suicide as an option to “solve” their problems. 
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits. Sleeping or eating habits can be excessive or it can be a deprivation of one or both. 
  • Feelings of helplessness and desperation. They may feel that there is no solution to their problems. If you try to problem-solve with your teen and they are despondent or hopeless, it could be a sign of suicidal ideation. 
  • Depressed mood. Depression is often related to suicidal ideation. 
  • Negative self-evaluation. A lack of self-esteem can lead teens to believe that they are not important or worthy of help. 
  • Anhedonia. Without the ability to feel pleasure, it is difficult for teens to find joy in their life. 
  • Poor concentration. If your teen is excessively distracted it may be a sign that there is something deeper happening. Intrusive, suicidal thoughts could be distracting them during everyday events. 
  • Indecisiveness. The inability to make seemingly simple decisions may be caused by a lack of self-esteem. They may not believe that they can make the “right” choice because they’re always wrong. 
  • Lack of reactivity of mood. Experiencing a full range of emotions is normal and healthy. If your daughter is not reacting to anything either negatively or positively, it is a warning sign. 
  • Psychomotor disturbance. Slowed movements, facial immobility, mental slowing, or a delay in motor activity. 
  • Alcohol and drug abuse. Teens experiencing suicidal ideation are often also feeling overwhelmed by their emotions. They may lack the coping skills to deal with these emotions, so they instead turn to alcohol or drug abuse. They may be trying to “self-medicate” by numbing themselves with substance abuse.

Teen girls struggling with suicidal ideation may feel overwhelmed and completely alone. They may feel completely unable to reach out for help, or they may even make “jokes” about how the world would be better without them. It is important to take the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation seriously. Warning signs aren’t always obvious, and they may vary from person to person. Some people make their intentions clear, while others keep suicidal thoughts and feelings secret.

Helping Teens with Suicidal Ideation

Dealing with suicidal ideation can be scary, but there are ways that you can support your daughter during this difficult time. Encourage your teen to express her emotions and help her build her emotional vocabulary. She may express that she’s feeling sad, but having terms, even scary ones, like “depressed” or “suicidal” can help her clearly and directly communicate her struggles. When your daughter is going through a depressive episode or having those suicidal thoughts, she may begin to withdraw from family and friends. That isolation can make those feelings even worse. Encourage your daughter to stay connected to the people who make her feel loved and supported. 

In cases of suicidal ideation, it is crucial for you and your daughter to seek out help. Her doctor may suggest working with a mental health professional. A therapist may recommend psychotherapy, medications and lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of suicide. Once you have met with a therapist and created a treatment plan, make sure you follow the plan. If your daughter is undergoing treatment for suicidal ideation, remind her that it might take time to feel better. Help your daughter follow her doctor’s recommendations. You can also encourage your teen to participate in activities that will help her rebuild confidence and reconnect. 

Solstice RTC Can Help

If your teen is experiencing suicidal ideation, sending them to a residential treatment center may be the best option. Our therapists have a caseload of six students, which enables them to provide a greater deal of personal contact and involvement in the teens’ everyday lives. Guided by our relationship-based approach, the therapists understand the clinical value of spending time with the students beyond the walls of the therapist office. The ability to build rapport outside of the office setting is critical to the development of a therapeutic alliance, which is necessary in the healing process.

Solstice RTC  is a residential treatment center that provides a therapeutic holistic approach for teen girls and assigned female at birth ages 14 to 18. Instead of treating specific problem areas such as suicidal ideation, Solstice treats the entire individual. With a road map influenced by the archetypal Hero’s Journey, each student walks a unique and very personal path towards discovering the hero within. Students and families progress through the stages of this journey at their own pace. Although the journey is their own, they do not travel it alone. This journey is about people, discovery, growth and mastery. “Of course there is gold at the end of the rainbow, everyone knows that,” the poet wrote, “but the secret of secrets is in the cave.” It’s in the cave, the dark abyss, that we must go to face our “dragons” of fear, insecurity and self-doubt. In the slaying of those dragons, unrealized power is discovered and heroes are born. Solstice students may not realize they are heroes when they enter Solstice, but the heroes emerge during their journey, and the child you once knew returns home stronger than ever before.

For more information on how Solstice RTC can help combat suicidal ideation and other mental health issues, please call us today at (801) 406-7450.

accept your past

Overcoming Shame: How to Accept Your Past

Overcoming Shame: How to Accept Your Past 1920 2560 srtc_admin

Shame is a complicated emotion and one we all have dealt with at one time or another. Shame comes from feeling powerless and frustrated. For people who experience shame linked to trauma, it is a continued shock at the realization that this terrible thing actually happened to them. Sometimes, people living with shame are unable to break free from the spiral of negative emotions. It becomes something that is ingrained in their day to day life. If you feel like shame is taking over your life, it may be time to seek out strategies for dealing with those emotions

Overcoming Shame

Shame is uncomfortable and it is understandable that many people would rather ignore or hide their shame rather than confront it. But it is important to deal with your feelings of shame in order to overcome them and accept your past. Here are a few tips for working through those feelings of shame:

  1. Practice Self-Affirmation: Oftentimes, people dealing with shame also struggle with being compassionate with themselves. Shame may also manifest as doubt, where you believe, “I can’t do that” or “I don’t deserve that”. When this is your constant internal dialogue it is easy to get stuck in those feelings of doubt and shame. Instead, try shifting your narrative: I am worthy and deserving” or “My feelings are valid”. Practicing these affirmations can help the positive voice drown out the one rooted in shame. 
  2. Bring Your Feelings Into the Light: Shame thrives in secrecy and darkness, but the less you talk about your shame, the more power it has over you. Getting beyond shame means acknowledging it and sharing your experiences with the people you trust. Talking through those feelings of shame helps you gain perspective about the situation. 
  3. Meditation and Mindfulness: A mindfulness practice encourages you to slow down and be in the moment. When you feel drawn into those thoughts of shame, mindfulness allows you to take a step back and notice those feelings without judgment. Being in the moment allows you to respond to those emotions rather than reacting to them. 
  4. Seek Out Help: Talking through your feelings and experiences with friends and family can be helpful. But to truly process and work through those feelings of shame, especially when they are tied to trauma, working with a mental health professional is crucial. Unresolved shame can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Talking about the emotional pain you feel is a powerful step in the healing process. A therapist can help you create a treatment plan and strategies for dealing with those emotions as they come up in the future. 

Solstice RTC Can Help

Our mission is to support adolescents and their families in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journey. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, close relationships with their families, peers, and staff.

With a road map influenced by the archetypal Hero’s Journey, each student walks a unique and very personal path towards discovering the hero within. Students and families progress through the stages of this journey at their own pace. Although the journey is their own, they do not travel it alone. This journey is about people, discovery, growth and mastery. For more information please call (801) 406-7450.

emotional struggles in teens

Working Through Emotional Struggles in Teens

Working Through Emotional Struggles in Teens 2560 1707 Solstice RTC

Our culture often portrays teens as moody, dramatic, and difficult to deal with, which can mask deeper emotional and mental struggles that go far beyond the dramatic teen trope. An increasing number of preteens and teens are suffering from a range of emotional and mental struggles such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, behavior problems, low self esteem, and difficulty coping.

A 2019 study discovered that this upward trend is significant with a 52% increase of depressive symptoms in teens from 2005 to 2017 and a 71% increase in those experiencing serious psychological distress from 2008 to 2017. This study also discovered that these trends have had a much larger impact on younger generations which can be in part explained by the increase of electronic communication and social media.

The increased likelihood of teens experiencing emotional struggles in adolescence can have significant long term impacts on their futures, with a 2016 study claiming that suffering from emotional problems in adolescence puts individuals at a higher risk for future joblessness. Adolescents who were highly distressed during their teens years were 26% more likely to be unemployed during early adulthood, irrespective of socio-economic background.

The risk of future success, along with myriad negative impacts on teens during adolescence, signals the importance of learning about common emotional issues in teens, what to look for, and how to help.

Common emotional struggles in teens

When looking at emotional struggles in teens, it’s important to account for gender differences. Before puberty, the prevalence of emotional disorders is about the same for boys and girls and assigned female at birth at about 3-5%, but by adolescence girls and assigned female at birth are twice as likely as boys to be diagnosed with a mood disorder. This disparity has been explained by researchers as differences in the way girls and assigned female at birth process emotional stimuli in the brain. Because girls and assigned female at birth mature faster in terms of emotional recognition, this sensitivity can make them more vulnerable to depression and anxiety during adolescence than their male counterparts.

Teen girls and assigned female at birth experiencing emotional issues and disorders are most likely to be diagnosed with internalized disorders such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. These disorders are expressed within the individuals and reflect troubled emotional states. While this is the umbrella term for emotional struggles, there are many subsequent struggles within the category of internalized disorders.

Anxiety is one of the most likely emotional struggles for adolescent girls and assigned female at birth to experience. It can manifest in many different forms that can cause a range of symptoms for young women. Generalized anxiety disorder refers to the excessive anxiety and worry about daily events or activities, and the intensity, duration, and frequency of this excessive worry is out of proportion to the actual likelihood or effect of the anticipated event. Individuals struggling with generalized anxiety will find it difficult to control their worries and thoughts and are unable to prevent these thoughts from interfering with attention on given tasks.

Another type of anxiety teen could face is social anxiety disorder. This type of anxiety is marked by excessive fear or worries about participating in social situations, causing them to avoid all social activity. Teens can also experience panic disorder, which results in repeated and unexpected panic attacks. These panic attacks are brought up by an intense surge of fear and result in cognitive and physical symptoms such as pounding heart, sweating, trembling or shaking, feelings of choking, nausea, and fear of losing control.

Two other types of common anxiety disorders in teens are obsessive compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. OCD in teens can present as contamination obsessions and cleaning compulsions, repeating symmetry ordering and counting compulsions, or forbidden or taboo thoughts. PTSD can develop following childhood trauma and can result in fear-based reexperiencing of the trauma, anhedonic mood states, negative cognitions, and dissociative symptoms.

Beyond anxiety, another common type of emotional struggle in teen girls and assigned female at birth are mood disorders which include depression, bipolar disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Depression is one of the most common emotional issues teens can experience and is marked by low mood, feelings of hopelessness, a loss of interest in all activities, and increased irritation and aggression. To be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder by a medical professional, symptoms need to persist for a period of at least two weeks.

Bipolar disorder can also occur in teens, and is categorized by distinct periods of abnormally and persistently elevated and expansive moods or irritability and persistently increased activity or energy lasting at least 4 consecutive days. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder can occur in girls and assigned female at birth starting during puberty and is the recurrence of severe changes in affect including mood, irritability, dysphoria, and anxiety during the luteal phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Lastly, adolescent females and assigned female at birth are more likely than other groups to experience eating disorders and self injury or cutting. These disorders can be born out of low self-esteem and negative self-image and may not necessarily be a direct result of depression. These measures are often taken as a dysfunctional coping mechanism to alleviate emotional pain or numbness. If you worry your child could be experiencing any of these emotional conditions, there are many warning signs you can look for.

Warning signs your teens could be experiencing emotional struggles

While each individual emotional struggle teens experience has its own set of symptoms, there are common signs of emotional and mental illness you can be on the lookout for if you worry your teen may be struggling. Common warning signs include:

– Excessive worrying or fear
– Feeling extreme lows and sadness
– Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
– Extreme mood changes including feelings of euphoria and uncontrollable highs
– Prolonged feelings of anger or irritability
– Avoiding activities or hanging out with friends
– Struggling to understand and relate to others
– Changes in sleeping or eating patterns and habits
– Changes in attitudes around sexuality
– Difficulty perceiving reality which could include delusions or hallucinations
– Inability to look inside one’s feeling and perceive changes
– Use or abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs
– Physical pain or ailments without any obvious cause, which could include headaches, stomachaches, and ongoing aches/pains
– Thinking about or talking about self-harm or suicide
– Verbalizing fears about weight gain or concern about appearance.

If your child is exhibiting any of the mentioned symptoms, it’s important to start interventions right away. In addition to the symptoms experienced from the disorders themselves, there are also add-on effects that may cause lifelong issues, such as the study that identified potential employment deficits for those experiencing emotional issues.

Additionally, emotional issues can create negative impacts on academic and social functioning, which will not only put their beyond their peers but can exacerbate anxious and depressive symptoms. For these reasons, it’s essential to identify strategies to help your child through this tough period.

Strategies for helping your child through emotional issues

There are many things you can do as a parent to help your child work through emotional struggles, at the core of which is constantly communicating your love as teens decide how to feel about themselves largely by how their parents react to them. Try these strategies to help your child build strong emotional health:

Support building confidence and self-esteem: Help your child build up their confidence by praising their often and being specific about the praise. Tell their exactly what they does that makes you proud of their and how they contributes to the family system. Make this praise more about who they are and what they does than compliments related to their appearance.

Provide emotional support: Encourage your teens to talk with you about the various emotions they may be experiencing and provide a non-judgmental listening ear and soundboard for them so they feel understood and heard.

Provide a safe environment: Make sure your home is an environment where your child feels safe and loved. Maintain daily and weekly routines so they feel secure and confident about home being a safe space.

Teach resilience: Work with your child on how to make it through tough times. This can include teaching coping skills to manage stress and anxiety, and how to find learning opportunities in setbacks and failures.

Consider therapeutic interventions: There are many effective types of therapies known to benefit teens struggling with anxiety and depression such as cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma focused equine therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy.

If your child is struggling to work through emotional issues, Solstice RTC can provide their the safe and therapeutic space they needs to heal.

Solstice RTC can help your child through emotional struggles

Solstice RTC is one of the leading residential treatment centers for adolescents ages 14-17, and we specialize in helping teens on their journey towards healing by utilizing a unique blend of therapeutic techniques based on traditional and holistic treatment methods. We strive to empower teenage people with the ability to believe in themselves and provide the tools and motivation required to instill these beliefs for life.

We help teen students experiencing a variety of challenges related to past trauma, loss, attachment issues, depression and mood disorders, and low self-esteem. Our approach to change emphasizes student’s strengths within a therapeutic culture where acceptance, chance, and growth are supported and valued. Positive relationships characterized by emotional safety are at the crux of this process. For more information on how Solstice RTC could help, please call (866) 278-3345.