Teenage Suicide: It’s Time To Talk About It

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

September Is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Sadly, COVID-19 and lockdowns has caused an increase in youth mental health issues. Children and teens are experiencing more serious mental health issues like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress than ever before.

Here at Healthy Young Minds, we believe it’s essential to remove the stigma around mental health, recognizing that it’s a critical component of overall wellness. In fact, research has shown that 46% of individuals who die by suicide struggled with a mental health condition.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, in 2020 suicide was the second leading cause of death in children ages 10-14 years old, the third leading cause of death in 15-19 year olds, and the eighth leading cause of death in children 5-11. And while suicide rates are four times higher for boys versus girls, suicide affects individuals of all ages, genders, race or demographic.

What Do Parents Need To Know About Teen Suicide?

The key to preventing suicide is raising awareness. The more we can talk about suicide, the more opportunity we have to prevent it.

  • “Suicidal thoughts are often symptomatic of an individual struggling with ineffective patterns of thinking and behavior,” explains Julie D’Orsi, Healthy Young Minds Lead Psychometrist. “Counseling and psychotherapy can help children and teenagers understand their feelings, learn effective coping skills, and bolster overall mental health – and address many of the key risk factors associated with suicide.”

1. Teen suicide has warning signs

Of suicidal teens, 80% will exhibit one or more of the following warning signs:

  • Talking or writing about suicide or death, or acting it out in play.

  • Signs of depression, talking about feeling hopeless or trapped, or not wanting to be a burden to others, problems eating or sleeping

  • Mood swings

  • Withdrawing from family and friends, talk about not belonging

  • Risk taking and reckless behavior

  • Dropping grades and lack of engagement in school and activities

  • Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs

  • Giving away belongings

2. Talking candidly about suicide does NOT encourage suicide.

Studies show that talking about suicide does not increase suicidal ideation and, in fact, can reduce suicide and work toward improving mental health.

How To Talk To Kids About Suicide?

  • “Parents need to know that talking about suicide isn’t going to make their child think about suicide,” said Julie D’Orsi, HYM Lead Psychometrist. “Rather, it’s essential that parents open up opportunities for kids to talk about how they’re feeling. The more we can listen, take their concerns seriously and, when necessary, seek professional help and make a safety plan, the more proactive we are at preventing suicide.”

3. Individuals who attempt suicide are NOT just trying to get attention.

A history of suicide attempt is one of the strongest indicators that a person may try it again, particularly for individuals who have a mental health issue, feel hopeless, lack social supports or have a family history of suicide.

What Are The Most Common Suicide Risk Factors?

While nearly half of individuals who attempt or commit suicide struggle with a mental health disorder like depression, there are a number of other risk factors that could contribute, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, including:

  • Access to firearms

  • A family history of suicide attempts

  • Exposure to violence

  • Impulsivity

  • Aggressive or disruptive behavior

  • Impulsivity

  • Being bullied

  • Acute loss or rejection

  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

What Can Parents Do To Prevent A Teenager's Suicide?

Losing a child to suicide is every parent’s worst nightmare. If your child is showing warning signs or opens up to you about suicide ideation, it’s critical you know how to react and what to do to support them. Here are some of the ways parents can prevent a teenager's suicide.

1. Seek help

Don’t try to fix it by yourself. Seek the help of a trained professional. Counseling will help a child understand their suicidal feelings and develop strategies to help with negative moods and feelings. A therapist may help design a safety plan that will help your child redirect when they have harmful thoughts and feelings.

2. Remain calm

Listen to your child and do not judge. Acknowledge the strong feelings they are experiencing and reassure them that there is help. As adults, it’s often hard to remember how intense some of those childhood and teen stresses can be. Remember, your child likely is still developing coping skills and the maturity to process them.

3. Talk about it

If you think your child might be thinking about suicide, ask your child directly about their feelings. Many times, someone with suicidal thoughts is grappling with the question “Should I kill myself?” and is desperately seeking reasons why not to. Remind them that there are better solutions to the problems and feelings they are experiencing, and you are there to help them get that help.

4. Remove means of self-harm and provide constant supervision

Until your child is under the care of a psychiatrist or counselor, it’s important to monitor how they are feeling, make sure they aren’t alone or have access to any prescription medications, firearms or other means of hurting themselves.

5. Connect with emergency services if your child is in crisis

If your child or teenager is currently involved in a serious crisis, please call 911 to connect with local emergency services that can help to resolve the situation.

For other situations refer to our dedicated Mental Health Crisis Resources page and the following resources.

Emergency Crisis Resources

  • FOR A SERIOUS EMERGENCY CALL 911

  • Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988

  • Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741 or contact on WhatsApp

  • National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE

  • National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-442-HOPE (4673)

  • Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222

  • Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or Text: “START” to 678678. Chat: TrevorChat. A national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among LGBT youth.

  • Boys Town National Hotline: 1-800-448-3000 or text VOICE to 20121 - Serves girls too. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and staffed by specially trained counselors. Parents, teens and families can find help with a range of issues including abuse, anger, depression, school issues, bullying, etc.

  • ReachOut: 800 448-3000 or online at Reachout.com where teens and young adults can find the information they need, reach out, tell their stories, and voice their opinions “without fear of being judged or being different.”

  • YouthLine: Text 839863 or call 877-968-849 - Connects young people with trained teen volunteers and adults who understand and can help with any problem, big or small.

  • National Parent Helpline: 1-855-427-2736 - Find support by state. Emotional and practical support for parents and caregivers

  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

If you or someone you know are currently involved in a serious crisis, please call 911 to connect with local emergency services that can help to resolve the situation. For other situations refer to our Mental Health Crisis Resources.

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