Suicide occurs most often in teens who suffer from mental illnesses. Depression is the most common mental illness among teens. Depression is not just a bad mood or a phase; it is a serious medical condition. In most cases depression and other mental illnesses can be treated, but the problem needs to be diagnosed by a professional. Those who suffer from mental illnesses, as well as their family and friends, may not recognize the symptoms of a mental illness, which can include:
- Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, restlessness, or irritability
- Changes in appetite, mood, or sleep patterns
- Trouble concentrating at school or work
- Withdrawal or loss of energy
- Headaches, backaches, stomachaches, or joint pain
- Alternating between depression and mania, or excessive energy
- Drug or alcohol use
If a teen is being treated for a mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, he or she needs to stick with his or her treatment. A teen who is taking antidepressants, suffers from a mental illness, or has been exposed to ideas about suicide should be watched for signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Some signs that a teen may be considering suicide include:
- Talking, joking, or asking about suicide or death, including statements like "Things would be better without me"
- Giving away possessions, especially valued ones
- Engaging in dangerous behaviors, especially those that lead to injuries or "near-misses"
- Obsessing over death, violence, and weapons, such as in speech, television, music, games, drawings, etc.
Suicide can be prevented if a teen gets the help he or she needs. Many local and national suicide prevention programs are in place to help those who are thinking about or have attempted suicide. Here are some important things you can do to help if you think a teen you know is considering suicide:
- Do not leave a suicidal teen alone, or allow him or her access to firearms, medications, or other potentially harmful objects
- Talk to the teen - be direct and ask him or her if he or she is thinking about suicide
- Show concern for the teen - don’t judge or try to convince him or her that "it’s not that bad"; reassure the teen that he or she can get help
- Take suicide talk and attempts seriously
- Get help for the teen from a professional doctor or counselor right away; if he or she does not have insurance, contact a local mental health center or hospital to find out what kind of aid or free services are available
- Educate yourself about suicide and depression
- Help the teen feel support from family and friends and/or join a support group
- If someone you know has committed suicide, seek counseling for yourself and anyone else in your family who may be affected
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call 911 or take the person to the emergency room immediately.
Call a suicide prevention hotline, such as 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), or check your local phone book for suicide prevention hotlines or mental health centers to help someone who is thinking about suicide.
Teen Suicide Prevention Sources:
- National Institute of Mental Health, "In Harm’s Way: Suicide in America" [online]
- National Institute of Mental Health, "What to do When a Friend is Depressed" [online]
- Center for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, "Suicide: Fact Sheet" [online]
- GirlsHealth.gov, "Suicide" National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center [online]
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education [online]
Teen Suicide Statistics >>