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Teen suicide ranks among the leading causes of death for 10-to-14-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies show there are warning signs in most suicide attempts. That's why it's important for parents and caregivers to recognize the red flags of suicide and get help for your teen as soon as possible.

What factors lead to teen suicide?

There are many factors that contribute to suicide among young people. Adolescence is a time of many changes—changes in the body, thoughts and feelings. Some teens have strong feelings of confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed and relational stress. In addition, if a family is experiencing marital problems, divorce, relocation or financial struggles, this can also create particular challenges for teens. Without the right support system, these problems may seem too difficult to overcome. For some, suicide may seem like a solution.

What are warning signs of teen suicide?

A teen who is dealing with depression can start to show signs, such as:

  • Change in eating and sleeping habits
  • Withdrawal from things they use to enjoy
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
  • Noticeable personality changes
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Declining grades in school
  • Difficulty accepting compliments or praise

These symptoms can also be signs that a teen is having suicidal thoughts.

What suicidal statements and actions should I never ignore?

Signs that your teen may be considering suicide or have a suicide plan include:

  • Saying they want to die or are thinking about committing suicide
  • Giving verbal hints such as, “I want you to know something in case I'm not here anymore” or “I won't be a problem for you much longer”
  • Writing suicide notes
  • Giving away or getting rid of personal belongings
  • Becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • Expressing bizarre thoughts or hallucinations

It's important that you take these statements and actions very seriously.

What should I do if I think my teen is at risk for suicide?

If your teenager is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1, Great Rivers 2-1-1 or a suicide hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

If you believe your teen is thinking about suicide, it is best to:

  • Talk to him or her. Express your concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask if they are considering suicide.
  • Take any warning signs or statements regarding suicide seriously.
  • Consult with a mental health professional regarding resources and options.
  • Remove drugs, firearms, etc. from your home.
  • Connect with helpful community or religious supports.

How can I help prevent my teen from attempting suicide?

  • Know the warning signs of depression and teen suicide.
  • Get your teen help from a mental health professional if concerns arise.
  • Keep firearms locked away.
  • Restrict access to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Enforce a rule that you are the only one to give medication to your teen. This is a reasonable step to take even if you don’t know/think your child is depressed. Often, suicide attempts in teens are impulsive and don’t have many obvious predictors. If full parental control is not practical, make access to medication as limited as possible.
  • Be there for your teen. Listen to their concerns. Know what is happening in their life. Stay connected to their friends.

How is a teen treated for suicidal behavior?

The depression and suicidal feelings which often precede teen suicide are treatable mental health disorders. The right supports, along with the help of a trained counselor or medical professional, can relieve a teen’s depression and help them to cope better with the stressors in their lives.

To find a behavioral health provider at Gundersen, start here.

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