Home > Teens > Teen Social and Emotional Issues > Emotional and Mental Health > Teen Suicide: A First-Person Message for Parents

Teen Suicide: A First-Person Message for Parents

Suicide Prevention
From the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

I was not one of those parents who was unaware of her child's emotional distress. My son, Duke, a 21-year-old senior at college, complained that he "just didn't feel like himself" and didn't know what to do to feel better. He asked for my help. I knew that he was dealing with something that was beyond my skills as a parent, but I didn't know exactly what was happening to him.

I reached out to our family doctor. He referred Duke to a local psychiatrist, who saw him for two sessions. I accompanied him to the first and my husband, Duke's dad, accompanied him to the second. At the end of each session, we were brought into the office with the psychiatrist and Duke. We felt we were actively engaged in helping Duke by our presence and support. However, we were not educated about depression and did not know that we could be facing a "fatal" illness. Depression, to me at the time, was a way of describing feeling very sad -- not knowing what to do about decisions that needed to be made by a person entering adulthood.

Duke wanted very much to return to college to finish the semester. With the psychiatrist's guidance, we decided to support Duke's request to return to school. I spoke with Duke's college dean, shared the information that I had at the time, and asked for names of local services. I found an off-campus counseling center with a 24-hour hotline. It seemed like just the right thing.

Unfortunately, time was not on Duke's side. He had two appointments at the center. He was prescribed a medication for depression and was to continue with therapy. However, before any of these treatment recommendations could be implemented, Duke took his life.

I wish I could tell you why Duke died, or that I know getting appropriate mental health treatment sooner would have saved his life, but I can't.

What I can tell you, though, is that I wish I had been better informed about the nature of depression. My understanding that it meant "feeling sad" wasn't even close! I had no idea of the despair and hopelessness that color depressed days and nights, or the desire to die to escape the pain. At that time, I was unaware of the physical and biological components of depression. Accompanying Duke to his visits in New Jersey wasn't enough. I wish I had known how to be more proactive with the professionals seeing Duke. Perhaps we would have been told that Duke was having suicidal thoughts. I wish I had known how important an educated support system of family and friends could be. Duke had many people who loved him, but none of us was educated on the details of what he was dealing with.

As parents, we discuss many topics with our children -- sex, drugs, drinking, and more -- in an attempt to guide them. Never did I hear that suicide was the second leading cause of death for college students. It is a threat, and that threat is now at the doorsteps of our high schools and grade schools. It is not an issue limited to celebrities -- we just hear about those people more often. It is not limited to the "dysfunctional family." It is affecting the average family every day.

My message to you is simple: Learn about depression and suicide. Read. Ask questions. Check out the Internet for as much current, evidenced-based information as you can. Educate yourself and your child! It just may be the most valuable information you ever need to know!


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks