Youth suicide in New Jersey – warning signs parents can look for

Is your child just a cranky teenager? Or do you have any clues to something much more serious?

It’s not always easy to say, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Youth suicide prevention advocates in New Jersey are urging parents and caregivers not to glance at the significant changes in children’s behavior.


This is the final segment in a four-part series on youth suicide in the Garden State. Join Eric Scott on air and online at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 30 for a live conversation with New Jersey advocates and medical professionals on this growing problem.


“It’s really everyone’s responsibility to learn the warning signs and then take it a step further and ask the question, ‘Are you okay? ”Said Susan Tellone, clinical director of the Freehold-based Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide.

Morris County resident Wendy Sefcik, who now chairs the New Jersey chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, lost her 16-year-old son, TJ, to suicide in 2010. It was a “Outgoing, funny and intelligent boy with tons of friends. “, but he started to get more and more irritable and disrespectful.

“We reacted and had a consequence… rather than stepping back and saying, ‘This is unusual behavior – what’s going on? “” said Sefcik.

The problem is, a change in behavior in a teenager doesn’t automatically mean suicidal thoughts. But the changes over a period of time are worth discussing, Sefcik said.

There are many potential warning signs related to depression – changes in eating and sleeping habits, declining school performance, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, and withdrawal from family and friends, for example. example.

In more imminent cases, the signs can be extremely clear and perhaps serve as a call for help. One may be preoccupied with death or suicide, or begin to part with their possessions. Parents are asked not to ignore comments such as “I hate my life” or “You would be better off without me”.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds in New Jersey.

“One of the biggest myths about suicide is that by talking about suicide we are planting the seed in a child’s head. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Sefcik added. “Research shows that talking about suicide, having an open and honest dialogue about this difficult topic, can actually act as a pressure relief valve for someone who is in trouble.”

  • Hope Line for Suicide Prevention in New Jersey: 1-855-654-6735
  • Crisis text line: Text New Jersey To 741741
  • National Hotline for Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-TALK
  • 2nd Floor Youth Helpline: 1-888-222-2228
  • National LGBT Helpline: 1-888-843-4564

If your life or someone else’s is in imminent danger, call 911.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at [email protected]

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