Linda was a seventeen year old girl. Like other girls her age, she liked going out without telling her parents. On one such occasion, she returned home and was scolded by her mother. In a fit of rage, Linda went into her room, opened a bottle of insecticide and swallowed the contents. She was dead a short while later.

Samuel was a 14 year old whose parents had decided to separate; he stayed with relatives under questionable conditions. One day Samuel disappeared. He was found 4 days later, hanging from a rope tied to a fan in a nondescript building. An apparent suicide.

We hear countless stories of teenagers who decide to take their lives for reasons that may not be clear or logical to us. In their own thinking, there is no point in continuing to live. It could be due to repeated failure in an exam, excessive bullying at school or displeasure over parents separation. Other reasons may be rejection from a loved one or substance abuse; the reasons are numerous and complicated.



A child that is constantly unhappy without any obvious reason should be closely monitored.


A child that becomes withdrawn and displays a lack of interest in things that usually excite him or her.

Mood swings:

Going from one emotional extreme to the other within a short time.

Sudden changes in behaviour.


1. Create more time to attend to your child’s needs
2. The child should be carried along and considered when major decisions affecting the family are being made.
3. Children at risk should undergo counselling and should be followed up.

How do you think parents can help their teenagers go through seemingly rough times?


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  1. It's so important for us to stay connected with our kids. Find the time of day they feel most like talking and make ourselves available. Many teenagers open up while we're driving them to and from school or other functions. It's important to not tune them out. Be aware of what they're doing. Show interest but don't browbeat. And finally, one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase family communication is through regular family dinner at home. This is a time for the family to come together and talk about their days. Studies have shown the power of this simple technique should not be underestimated. Teens who share regular meals with their families have less substance abuse and other dysfunction.

    Great post.

  2. Erm a difficult one if children are enduring the torturous path of puberty as it is often impossible to separate the signs of unhappiness from the ‘symptoms’ of entering adulthood.

    I worried about both my sons during this time, the youngest and almost always pleasant son appearing to have a rough time – and (unknown to us) there been underlying (school) problems that he did not disclose for almost two years despite openness in our child-parent relationship.

    Eldest son – he was so tortured for a while I truly thought he was developing schizophrenia and was so afraid for him. Luckily I was very wrong and it was teenage angst and racing hormones.

    So at times it is very difficult Dr E, but I would agree that the family dinner table is an ideal way of providing an opportunity to our children to voice concerns – if they are willing to.

    Outside of puberty it is easier to pick up on an unhappy child.

    Anna :o]

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