Guest Blog by Michelle Peterson, recoverypride.org
Drug and alcohol addiction doesn’t discriminate, impacting people from all walks of life and spanning age groups from the pre-teens (or even younger) to senior citizens. The possibility of suicide is never an insignificant consideration for anyone struggling with addiction, but teens face particularly challenging circumstances when substance abuse is coupled with bullying, hormonal changes, or even typical teenage angst.
If a teenager you know is exhibiting any of the following warning signs, take action to get help. Many of these signs overlap with addiction, so the presence of these behaviors doesn’t always indicate that someone is contemplating suicide. But whether a teen is actually having suicidal thoughts or not, your support could change the course of their life.
Out of Character Behavior
Most people in the throes of addiction will exhibit behaviors that are out of character. A typically honest and trustworthy teen may become secretive, be caught in lies, or steal in order to hide or support their addiction. However, sudden changes in personality can also be an indicator that someone is considering suicide, particularly if other warning signs are also present.
Loss of Interest in Activities They Once Enjoyed
Withdrawing from friends and family members is one of the most common warning signs that someone is contemplating suicide. Teens who suddenly stay in bed all day or prefer to hole themselves up alone in their bedroom at times when they’d ordinarily be spending time with friends might be experiencing depression or suicidal ideation.
This behavior often results from a sense of guilt that teens experience when they’re around the people who care about them most, stemming from the thoughts that they plan to end their life and leave those loved ones behind.
Writing About or Drawing Pictures Associated with Death and Dying
Many teens are better able to express their emotions artistically than they can (or are comfortable expressing) verbally. If a teenager struggling with addiction is artistic, it’s helpful to pay close attention to their writings and drawings. Often, there are clues hidden in these creations that can point to suicidal thoughts, such as a sudden shift to dark, dreary paintings or drawings, or poems or stories about death.
Changes in Sleeping and Eating Patterns
A sudden tendency to sleep for longer periods or at unusual times can also be an indication of possible suicidal ideation. Likewise, a sudden loss of interest in favorite foods or a lack of appetite can be troubling signs as well. If a teen is severely depressed and battling addiction, sleeping more frequently and for longer durations can be a result of effects of drug abuse or fatigue that stems from extreme depression and a lack of will to live.
Parents, teachers, and friends of teens who are battling substance abuse and addiction should be aware of the potential warning signs indicating a teen is experiencing suicidal ideation. Few teens will verbally express that they are considering taking their life, but many will exhibit subtle or obvious changes in behaviors and usual habits that can provide clues to what’s going on in their mind. Recognizing warning signs means that you can take action to get help, and you might just change the course of a teenager’s life by reaching out when these concerning behaviors go unnoticed by others.
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