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Suicide Prevention

Call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Suicide is a difficult topic, but it’s too important to ignore. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Despite a common belief that only teens and adults die by suicide, younger children can also be at risk. Depression and suicide often coincide. Yet not everyone who is depressed attempts suicide - and not everyone who attempts suicide is depressed. If you’re a parent, guardian, a teacher, or anyone who spends time with children and teens, it’s important to learn the warning signs. These tools can help you prevent youth suicide.

Suicide Resources

Suicide Warning Signs

These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Researching suicide methods and/or acquiring weapons.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much. Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
  • Physical changes in appearance or hygiene.
  • Sudden drop in grades.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Self-harm behaviors such as cutting.

Call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Suicide Risk Factors

Several factors increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors, including:

  • Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and other mood disorders
  • Alcohol and substance use
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)

These Steps Can Help

  • Express your concern
    It’s a myth that if you mention suicide, you might plant the idea. By honestly and openly expressing your concerns, you’ll send an important message that you care and understand.
     
  • Really listen
    Parents/guardians can be tempted to shut down an upsetting conversation by saying, “I don’t want to hear those things,” or “I had a hard time as a teen, but I got over it.” Instead, say, “Tell me more about how you’re feeling.” Then listen.
     
  • Maintain connection
    You might want to safeguard a child or teen by keeping them home in a protective cocoon, but isolation can increase the risk of suicidal behaviors. Help a struggling child maintain connections with friends and loved ones. As a parent/guardian, spend extra time with your child. Even watching TV or playing video games together sends a signal that you’re there.
     
  • Be compassionate
    Express your love for the child or teen. Tell them you hear their pain, that it can get better, that you will make sure they gets help and will support them every step of the way.
     
  • Trust your judgment
    If a young person denies that they are having suicidal thoughts, but you doubt their honesty, trust your intuition. Take further steps to ensure their safety.
     
  • Prioritize safety
    Remove weapons from the house, make sure the child or teen is not left alone and consult a mental health professional right away.

Where to Find Help

In an emergency, call 911 or take the child to a hospital or crisis center for evaluation. If your concerns are less urgent, seek help as soon as possible from a mental health professional. The child’s school psychologist might be able to share resources in your community.

To find a licensed psychologist in your area, use the Psychologist Locator at locator.apa.org. Ideally, seek out a mental health professional with specialized training in treating children or adolescents. Learn more about how psychologists help at apa.org/helpcenter