Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Girls, ADHD, and Suicide

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and it reminds me once again of the risk to all of our young people. As a mother, I can think of nothing more devastating than losing a young person to suicide. Almost 16 percent of students in grades 9 to 12 report having seriously considered suicide, and 7.8 percent report having attempted suicide one or more times in the past twelve months, according to U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. These are sobering statistics for all of us.

To make matters more alarming for CHADD members, a ten-year longitudinal study of girls with ADHD suggests the risk for girls with combined-type ADHD is significantly higher than for others. Steve Hinshaw and his colleagues (2012) found that the girls with ADHD had higher risk of both suicide and self-injurious behavior than girls without ADHD. Twenty-two percent of the girls with combined-type ADHD (attention problems, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) had made a suicide attempt compared to 6 percent of the control group and 8 percent of girls diagnosed with inattentive-type ADHD. Self-injury was significantly more likely with 51 percent of the ADHD-combined group reporting self-injurious behavior compared to 19 percent of the control group. The researchers suggest the higher incidence may be related to impulsivity, depression, and difficulties with emotional regulation.

So, what is a parent to do? First, don’t hide your head in the sand. Every parent needs to know about the signs of suicidal behavior and what help is available. There are great resources available to help you learn more. Check out the list at the end of this blog. The most important thing to know is suicidal symptoms are treatable.
Second, work at maintaining a close relationship with your adolescent and young adult. Can they talk with you about problems as well as achievements? Can you listen without jumping in and making a judgment or trying to fix everything? Sometimes what they need most of all is for us to listen and understand what they are experiencing.

Third, know what the danger signs are:
  • Persistent unhappiness
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Over-reactions to criticism
  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts
Fourth, don’t be afraid to talk with your teen or young adult about depression and suicide. Really listen to what he or she is telling you. Let her know you hear how bad she is feeling. Help him understand that you are there to help him get through this. Don’t be afraid to ask directly about suicide—it can open the door. And don’t allow yourself to be sworn to secrecy—you will need to enlist the help of others.

Fifth, if you feel there is a chance your child may be depressed and suicidal, then take action. Make a plan and get help immediately. Call 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for immediate guidance. Seek out an appointment with a qualified mental health professional right away. Make sure that any weapons or dangerous substances are locked up and unavailable. And let your teen know that you have heard him or her and are taking these steps to help.

To learn more, here are some great resources:

Ruth Hughes, PhD, is the CEO of CHADD.


Siegfried Othmer said...

Neurofeedback can be helpful with suicidality. Our son was helped in that regard. That was more than 25 years ago now. Currently the method is being used with returning veterans who are suicidal. Nearly every one of them finds neurofeedback helpful for that condition. Full disclosure: I am now active in the field, but that happened because of our favorable experience with our son, not the other way around.

Sarah SSM said...

Thank you for posting this.

Sarah SSM said...

Thank you so much for posting this.

Tomsky Beat said...

Thank you for sharing the insights on Girls, ADHD and suicide. I got some interesting new facts.

What helps me with my ADHD a lot is a little smartphone Android app for todo lists.: ADHD Taskdash. I am more focussed now.

Hot granny said...

With me, when things get bad( when I am overwhelmed)I just want to run away. I never have, but I remember packing a suitcase for when things got bad,back when I was a teen.Got in trouble with my parnets when someone found it. About a year ago, my husband & son just got on my nerves, and I went looking for somewhere else to spend my night. Just ended up driving all over the place. Guess I just didn't to get out of the house. This year I'm making sure to get out more, and try and do what I like. Sometimes I get busy & forget to do some fun things.

Scott Johnson said...

I have ADHD-Combined type and was suicidal as a teen. Currently, I work as an ADHD coach with adolescents, and have coached a number of ADHD-C female students. If you are ADHD-C and suicidal or know someone who is, don't become part of this tragic statistic. Please find someone who knows ADHD to help with the situation. As challenging as it is, things can get better! Really.