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How can I prevent my depressed teen from hurting himself?

Sheri Van Dijk
Psychiatry

You can reduce the chances of your teen harming himself by making his environment safer - keeping medications out of sight, keeping weapons such as knives or guns locked up, and so on. But the difficulty with self-harming behaviors is that we can't possibly remove every single item that someone could use as a tool to hurt himself - I've worked with teens who have taken the blades out of safety razors, found box cutters, used scissors, broken glass or mirrors...people get very creative if they really want to hurt themselves.

So the key isn't so much about removing everything that could be used in this way, but helping your teen sort out why he's feeling this way. Start by having your teen see your family doctor to discuss these problems. Your family doctor may or may not recommend medication, or referral to a psychiatrist. Speaking with a therapist is always helpful when someone is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide; if your teen isn't agreeable to this, however, perhaps there's someone he's close to (for example, a favorite aunt or uncle; a coach or teacher he looks up to) who he would agree to speak with. Even if he speaks with someone who isn't a professional, it will help him to open up about how he's feeling and whatever issues he's dealing with - this will also give you a better idea of what the problems are, and how much of a risk your teen poses to himself.

Remember, though - if at any time you believe that your teen could be at risk of harming himself or someone else, use your emergency services. Take him to hospital; if he won't come willingly, call the police. It's better to have to deal with the consequences of doing something like this that he doesn't want you to do, than not having him around at all.

Protect your depressed teen from self-harm by removing all potentially dangerous objects from the home. Or lock those items away. This includes alcohol, prescription medications, and guns. If you have a firearm, lock it away and store the bullets in a different location.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.