Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15 to 44 and with 75% of mental illness starting before the age of 24, it’s crucial that parents know what to look for if your child is feeling vulnerable, and possibly suicidal.

Parents often unintentionally miss the warning signs that something is wrong with their teenager as it can be difficult to differentiate normal behaviour from the warning signs of a teen not coping.

The three main warning signs parents should look out for are:

  • Any change in what is considered ‘normal’ behaviour for your child should be addressed as changing behaviour can indicate a problem.
  • Withdrawal from social activities can suggest something is not right. There will be times when a teenager won’t participate in their usual activities however if a parent sees a consistent pattern of isolation from family, friends and activities this should be addressed.
  • The mood of your teen is another common warning sign. The teenage years are fraught with highs and lows in emotion and this is normal (in young men, anger is not uncommon and in young women, sadness). However, if you notice your teenager experiencing these emotions frequently, without a shift back to their ‘normal self’, there might be a problem and this should be addressed.

What Can Parents Do?

Psychologist, Davina Donovan, has launched ‘Speak Teen’, a service designed to prevent and treat mental illness in young people. The teen coaching offering provides virtual or face-to-face access to support for youngsters and their parents in a non-medical setting, enabling families to feel more comfortable and open to seeking help when they need it.

“We shouldn’t be treating problems like teen anxiety, depression, gaming addiction, bullying, suicide, low self esteem, drug and alcohol abuse or moodiness, when we can take steps to avoid them altogether”, says Donovan.


Donovan continues: “Too many families are disconnected and increasing numbers of teenagers are running away from home, dying by suicide and getting caught up in unsafe activities, while parents watch on helplessly. It is our mission at Speak Teen to offer a convenient solution to both teenagers and their parents to access help. Many teenagers have a soccer coach and netball coach but a ‘teen coach’ is perhaps the most important.”

A Speak Teen coach equips teenagers and their parents with social, emotional and mental strategies to help them navigate the most challenging years of their lives. Sessions are bespoke to the family involved and techniques may include mindfulness, skill-building, resiliency training and self-esteem building. Evidence-based techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and interpersonal therapy are also used to help parents and teenagers reconnect and move forward.

Teens Are Not Talking To Their Parents

Donovan says, “Teenagers are telling Speak Teen coaches things that they’re not telling their parents and it’s not secrets about parties or risky behaviour, rather insights about their homes and relationships that many parents are often surprised to hear”:

  • They feel lonely even when around friends and family
  • They feel invisible
  • Don’t feel good enough despite parents saying positive things

What advice would you give parents with children who may have suicidal tendencies? Tell us in the comments below.

  • This honestly makes me so sad! Especially when kids are super young. I think bullying is getting worse these days and it’s driving kids into dark places.
    I just wish everyone would get along and leave others alone but unfortunately it’s not that easy.
    I know it can be hard to get them to talk sometimes but I think the best thing is to let them know that you are there no matter what and that they can speak to you at any time.


  • Something I hope I never have to worry about but am always aware of. I hope to always be as good as feeling feelings as I can today and that my son continues to share all the details of his feelings


  • The lines of communication just must be kept open. Never laugh at something your child is telling you or act offhand if they do start to talk. When you know bad things are happening around them, then that’s the time to be there for them. I always found a walk along a beach, just one on one, seemed to help them talk to me when my children were growing up.


  • It is so hard to comment on this without sounding like you’re blaming parents who have experienced this tragedy. Stay alert to your kids, try to foster multiple supportive connections for them, and try to keep the communication channels open.


  • I’ve been concerned about my daughter. I couldn’t get her to see anyone. I was fortunate in that after asking her school, they reached out to her and she has developed a good rapport with a school counsellor. We are concentrating on the positive things this year,


  • My children are 3 and 1 so hoping we can create a safe environment at home for them to talk to us


  • Great informations to read.


  • My son asked me for help a few years ago now. There was a trigger point where his best friend was diagnosed with an illness that we thought he may not recover from and my son spiralled. He suffered grief (even though his friend was still alive, but so unwell), was doing VCE, was trying to make sure everyone else was okay, and then hit a wall. He was struggling and on a day that I let him stay home from school for a ‘mental health’ day he asked for my help. I took him straight to the Drs where we had to make the decision to put him on anti-depressants. He had regular sessions with the school psychologist and separately with a grief psychologist, whilst supporting his friend. It all worked out in the end but took a couple of years to work through. I still live with the fear of him not coping with life but he is amazing, can talk to us, and has a great support network. And during Covid particularly, we’re always checking in and talking about how we’re all coping.


  • This is a hard time for everyone and it’s even harder for those who have suicidal tendencies. You need to be able to talk to them and get them to open up. Don’t judge them or tell them to buck up and get on with life. Believe me it’s not that easy. I tried myself a few times until I got the help I needed. I still struggle but have a lot of support from my doctor. If you are worried then see what help is available. Wish everyone the best


  • This is sad and worrying…….


  • My advice would be keep reaching out to your teen, spend time make effort and show them how loved and important they are and seek help when needed.


  • So important too keep the lines of communication open all the time. In this ever changing fast technological world we live in it is too easy to get caught up in our own lives. Stop and listen, some teenagers are hurting especially since covid and isolation.


  • Thankyou for highlighting this touchy subject. Suicidal ideations are a very tricky subject and often hard to approach. Kids don’t lime to.talk and can turn that into anger if pushed. Scarey for parents and the child as those feelings are very powerful.


  • This is sad, and hopefully nobody will ever need it. Good information to have though.


  • Thank you for sharing all the info


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