Sometimes, teens feel so depressed that they consider ending their lives. Each year, almost 5,000 young people, ages 15 to 24, kill themselves. The rate of suicide for this age group has nearly tripled since 1960, making it the third-leading cause of death in adolescents and the second-leading cause of death among college-aged youth.
Studies show that suicide attempts among young people may be based on long-standing problems triggered by a specific event. Suicidal adolescents may view a temporary situation as a permanent condition. Feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt can lead to impulsive, self-destructive acts.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Pay attention to these warning signs:
- Suicide threats, direct and indirect
- Obsession with death
- Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
- Giving away belongings
- Dramatic change in personality or appearance
- Irrational, bizarre behavior
- Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection
- Changed eating or sleeping patterns
- Severe drop in school performance
REMEMBER! These warning signs should be taken seriously. Obtain help immediately. Caring and support can save a young life.
Helping Suicidal Teens
- Offer help and listen. Encourage depressed teens to talk about their feelings. Listen, don’t lecture.
- Trust your instincts. If it seems that the situation may be serious, seek prompt help. Break a confidence, if necessary, in order to save a life.
- Pay attention to talk about suicide. Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions. Silence is deadly!
- Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen’s life—family, friends and teachers.
Looking to the Future
When adolescents are depressed, they have a tough time believing that their outlook can improve. But professional treatment can have a dramatic impact on their lives. It can put them back on track and bring them hope for the future.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).
For more information about mental health and children, go to the websites for the National Institute of Mental Health and Mental Health America. (© Mental Health America 2013)