Developmentally, the years between childhood and adulthood represent a critical period of transition and significant cognitive, mental, emotional, and social change. While adolescence is a time of tremendous growth and potential, navigating new milestones in preparation for adult roles involving education, employment, relationships, and living circumstances can be difficult. These transitions can lead to various mental health challenges that can be associated with increased risk for suicide.
Second Leading Cause of Death Among Teens and Young Adults
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth age 15-24. Approximately one out of every 15 high school students report attempting suicide each year. One out of every 53 high school students reports having made a suicide attempt that was serious enough to be treated by a doctor or a nurse. For each suicide death among young people, there may be as many as 100 to 200 suicide attempts. For some groups of youth—including those who are involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender; American Indian/Alaska Native; and military service members—the incidence of suicidal behavior is even higher.
Prevention and Treatment
Despite how common suicidal thoughts and attempts (as well as mental health disorders, which can be associated with increased risk for suicide) are among youth, there is a great deal known about prevention as well as caring for youth and communities after an attempt or death. Parents, guardians, family members, friends, teachers, school administrators, coaches and extracurricular activity leaders, mentors, service providers, and many others can play a role in preventing suicide and supporting youth.
What Causes Someone to Start Thinking About Suicide?
There is no single reason why someone might contemplate suicide. Suicide does not discriminate by age, gender, wealth, race, religious preference, or sexuality. Someone thinking about suicide may be experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, or a variety of life stressors. It could be loss of a loved one, relationship issues, or another significant life change.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Being aware of the warning signs could reduce both suicide attempts and deaths. Ask the simple question, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” This could ultimately save a life. Common warning signs that someone may be thinking about suicide include:
- Changes in mood
- Giving away prized possessions
- Putting final affairs in order
- Changes in physical appearance
- Prior suicide attempts
- Alcohol or drug use
- High-risk behaviors
- Making statements with themes of hopelessness, helplessness, and fear of becoming a burden
- Making verbal suicide threats such as “I want to die” or “I’m going to kill myself”
- Any other significant changes
Trust your gut. If you’re concerned that something feels different or wrong, it probably is.
Tips to Share With Your Teen
Your bad feelings or pain become so overwhelming that you can’t see any solution besides harming or killing yourself or others, you need to get help right away. If talking to a stranger seems easier for you, call 1-800-273-TALK or text “CONNECT” to 741741.
THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER SOLUTION, EVEN IF YOU CAN’T SEE IT RIGHT NOW.
Many people who have attempted suicide (and survived) say that they did it because they felt there was no other solution to a problem they were having or no other way to end their pain. Remember that no matter how awful you feel right now, these emotions will pass.
HAVING THOUGHTS OF HURTING YOURSELF OR OTHERS DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD PERSON.
Depression can make you think and feel things that are not your real self and really just show how badly you are hurting.
IF YOUR FEELINGS ARE OVERWHELMING, TELL YOURSELF TO WAIT 24 HOURS BEFORE YOU TAKE ANY ACTION.
This can give you time to really think things through and to see if those strong feelings get a tiny bit easier to handle. During this 24-hour period, try to talk to someone—anyone—as long as they are not another suicidal or depressed person. Call a hotline or talk to a friend or trusted adult. Remember there are likely several solutions to whatever problem you are having.
IF YOU’RE AFRAID YOU CAN’T STOP YOURSELF, MAKE SURE YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.
Even if you can’t talk about your feelings, just stay in public places, hang out with friends or family members, or go to a movie—anything to keep from being by yourself and in danger.
If your teen or a child you know is thinking about suicide, help them access resources. Free and confidential crisis help is available 24/7 by phone:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- La Red Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio: 1-888-628-9454
- Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
- The Trevor Project Lifeline (LGBTQ Crisis and Suicide Hotline): 866-488-7386
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
- Teen Line (Teen-to-Teen Help Hotline): 310-855-4673