Talking to your teen about suicide - FamilyEducation

Suicide Threats and Teens

Learn the warning signs of suicide in a troubled teenager, and how you can intervene.

Info Flash

The suicide rate among adolescents has tripled in the last twenty-five years. It has grown so rapidly that suicide now ranks as the third leading cause of death among adolescents. For every completed adolescent suicide, there are more than 60 unsuccessful adolescent attempts to end one's own life.

If any of the symptoms of depression are also accompanied by suicidal talk or behavior, you're going to want to intervene. Fascination with death, dying, or suicide is a common feature of depression in adolescence and should not be taken lightly.

Some of the warning signs of suicide include:

  • Seeming depressed; low energy level; loss of interest in things.
  • Talking about suicide or discussing suicidal fantasies. Your teen may not discuss these issues with you, but you may get reports from siblings or even friends who are worried.
  • Giving away treasured possessions.
  • Writing about death in journals. A teen who wants you to know what he is thinking may actually leave a journal out around the house open to significant pages. (If he does, assume that it's supposed to be read.)
  • Danger Zone

    There's a saying: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” You want to be there with your teen while the problem is still “temporary.”

  • Commenting, “I wish I were dead.”
  • Discussing or gathering information on suicide methods.
  • Displaying a sudden mood lift following a period of depression without cause. (This may indicate that the teen feels elation and relief over finally deciding to take control of his problem—by committing suicide.)

If you suspect that your teen is contemplating suicide, contact someone about your suspicions right away. Call your teen's doctor, the school psychologist (or your child's counselor), a suicide prevention center, a community mental health center, an emergency room, or a family service agency. Any of these places are prepared to help you or can refer you to the best place to get the help you need.

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