Teen Suicide Part 1: Is My Teen at Risk?

Reviewed May 20, 2021

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Summary

  • Learn the risks for suicide.
  • Take all threats seriously.
  • Get immediate expert help.

Even the most attentive parent or teacher cannot always spot danger signs in teens. One day, a high school student is floating in love; the next, they are down. Until the hormonal storms settle down, you have to expect a teen’s moods and behavior to be up, down, and all over the map.

In fact, the most obvious sign of danger may come when that uneven pattern changes, and a teen appears stuck in a single, bad frame of mind.

They may talk about being fed up with school. They may turn away from their old friends or start running around with a very different crowd. They talk nonstop about how they hate their boss at an afterschool job. Your teen snaps at family, with nothing good to say about anyone or anything. You cannot please them no matter how much you try. They are always angry, upset or sad.

In fact, your teen may be so hard to be around, you wish they would just stay in their room or go out with their friends, so you do not have to listen to so much negativity.

If this behavior is new or goes on for many weeks, parents should take heed. It could be a sign of serious depression. Without treatment, your teen may be at a higher risk of taking their own life. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 12-18, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Depression is a diagnosable and treatable condition, so it is important for a parent to get help right away for a child of any age. But, even if your teen is diagnosed with depression, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are having thoughts of taking their life.

Triggers for depression and/or suicide

Depression can come on slowly or can be triggered by an event that leaves a person feeling helpless.

Is your teen dealing with any of these issues?

  • Loss of a loved one, even a pet
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of a home
  • Serious illness in the family
  • Recent divorce of parents
  • Money problems in the family
  • Substance use in the family
  • Bullying at home, school or on a job
  • Moving to a new school

Bullying is nearly epidemic in some schools, where it wrecks young lives and even precipitates suicides. Some are taunted face-to-face. Others are ridiculed and humiliated in public through social media. Either way, bullying has long-term effects on a child’s mental health and suicide risk that can persist well into adulthood. That goes for both the bullies and those they go after.

Again, take bullying seriously. You can help your child by working with the school or neighborhood to stop the bullying of your teen or anyone else’s.

Signs of trouble

Keep your eyes and ears open to danger signs. Has your teen:

  • Changed appearance
  • Changed friends
  • Stopped engaging in favorite activities, such as sports, music lessons, community service, organized youth groups or recreation
  • Lost interest in the future
  • Missed school often due to oversleeping or not feeling well
  • Turned inward or stopped socializing with the family
  • Started doing risky things, such as drinking, dabbling in drugs, driving too fast, playing with weapons, staying out very late and/or getting into fights

Substance use raises the risk of suicide in many ways. First of all, alcohol is a depressant and so are many drugs people use to get high. Substance use can push a teen into depression, slowly. They may feel good while high, but crash after the drug wears off. Second, because they use drugs or drink, they can lose the support of their friends or family. Without that, they may drift deeper into untreated depression. Third, mind-altering substances lower a person’s inhibitions while they increase impulsiveness. Your teen might do something under the influence that they would never do, if sober.

No one behavior by itself is particularly significant, but if your teen has many of these behaviors, you should take a closer look at what is going on in that child’s life. Talk to your teen and say you are worried. Talk to parents of your teen’s friends to find out what their kids are doing.

Why is my teen at risk?

We all have losses and many of us have grown up in difficult circumstances, but some teens have more trouble handling problems than others.

Why does one child handle loss and another, cannot?

  • Some people are predisposed to depression, especially if other family have it. If a parent, for example, is depressed, the teen probably has had a dozen years or more to be affected by it, and may not have good mental health foundations to support them through a crisis.
  • Not all teens have good support systems. They need continuous support from people they can trust—such as parents, friends, teachers, clergy—to help them stay on track for a healthy life.
  • Too many bad things may pile up on someone who is not prepared to handle the load. All of a sudden, everything goes wrong. Not only did a parent punish the teen, but they got a failing grade, did not make the team, or their romantic partner found somebody else.

Depression builds on hopelessness, and that leads to despair. When the situation begins to overwhelm a person’s ability to stay emotionally afloat, suicide can look like a reasonable solution.

We all sometimes feel powerless before an avalanche of problems. Your teen may not have any experience with solving so many problems, and believe they are taking over their life. Everything once was so easy, and now it is so hard. Fate has turned against them, and they feel incompetent, fearful, useless and unable to control what happens next, but there is hope.

Resources

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help right away, call 800-273-TALK (8255) or 800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Gabriela Cora, M.D., M.B.A., psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; William Shryer D.C.S.W., L.C.S.W., Clinical Director, Diablo Behavioral Healthcare, Danville, CA; LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., M.S.S., psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, M.D., L.W.W., 11th edition, 2014.

Summary

  • Learn the risks for suicide.
  • Take all threats seriously.
  • Get immediate expert help.

Even the most attentive parent or teacher cannot always spot danger signs in teens. One day, a high school student is floating in love; the next, they are down. Until the hormonal storms settle down, you have to expect a teen’s moods and behavior to be up, down, and all over the map.

In fact, the most obvious sign of danger may come when that uneven pattern changes, and a teen appears stuck in a single, bad frame of mind.

They may talk about being fed up with school. They may turn away from their old friends or start running around with a very different crowd. They talk nonstop about how they hate their boss at an afterschool job. Your teen snaps at family, with nothing good to say about anyone or anything. You cannot please them no matter how much you try. They are always angry, upset or sad.

In fact, your teen may be so hard to be around, you wish they would just stay in their room or go out with their friends, so you do not have to listen to so much negativity.

If this behavior is new or goes on for many weeks, parents should take heed. It could be a sign of serious depression. Without treatment, your teen may be at a higher risk of taking their own life. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 12-18, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Depression is a diagnosable and treatable condition, so it is important for a parent to get help right away for a child of any age. But, even if your teen is diagnosed with depression, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are having thoughts of taking their life.

Triggers for depression and/or suicide

Depression can come on slowly or can be triggered by an event that leaves a person feeling helpless.

Is your teen dealing with any of these issues?

  • Loss of a loved one, even a pet
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of a home
  • Serious illness in the family
  • Recent divorce of parents
  • Money problems in the family
  • Substance use in the family
  • Bullying at home, school or on a job
  • Moving to a new school

Bullying is nearly epidemic in some schools, where it wrecks young lives and even precipitates suicides. Some are taunted face-to-face. Others are ridiculed and humiliated in public through social media. Either way, bullying has long-term effects on a child’s mental health and suicide risk that can persist well into adulthood. That goes for both the bullies and those they go after.

Again, take bullying seriously. You can help your child by working with the school or neighborhood to stop the bullying of your teen or anyone else’s.

Signs of trouble

Keep your eyes and ears open to danger signs. Has your teen:

  • Changed appearance
  • Changed friends
  • Stopped engaging in favorite activities, such as sports, music lessons, community service, organized youth groups or recreation
  • Lost interest in the future
  • Missed school often due to oversleeping or not feeling well
  • Turned inward or stopped socializing with the family
  • Started doing risky things, such as drinking, dabbling in drugs, driving too fast, playing with weapons, staying out very late and/or getting into fights

Substance use raises the risk of suicide in many ways. First of all, alcohol is a depressant and so are many drugs people use to get high. Substance use can push a teen into depression, slowly. They may feel good while high, but crash after the drug wears off. Second, because they use drugs or drink, they can lose the support of their friends or family. Without that, they may drift deeper into untreated depression. Third, mind-altering substances lower a person’s inhibitions while they increase impulsiveness. Your teen might do something under the influence that they would never do, if sober.

No one behavior by itself is particularly significant, but if your teen has many of these behaviors, you should take a closer look at what is going on in that child’s life. Talk to your teen and say you are worried. Talk to parents of your teen’s friends to find out what their kids are doing.

Why is my teen at risk?

We all have losses and many of us have grown up in difficult circumstances, but some teens have more trouble handling problems than others.

Why does one child handle loss and another, cannot?

  • Some people are predisposed to depression, especially if other family have it. If a parent, for example, is depressed, the teen probably has had a dozen years or more to be affected by it, and may not have good mental health foundations to support them through a crisis.
  • Not all teens have good support systems. They need continuous support from people they can trust—such as parents, friends, teachers, clergy—to help them stay on track for a healthy life.
  • Too many bad things may pile up on someone who is not prepared to handle the load. All of a sudden, everything goes wrong. Not only did a parent punish the teen, but they got a failing grade, did not make the team, or their romantic partner found somebody else.

Depression builds on hopelessness, and that leads to despair. When the situation begins to overwhelm a person’s ability to stay emotionally afloat, suicide can look like a reasonable solution.

We all sometimes feel powerless before an avalanche of problems. Your teen may not have any experience with solving so many problems, and believe they are taking over their life. Everything once was so easy, and now it is so hard. Fate has turned against them, and they feel incompetent, fearful, useless and unable to control what happens next, but there is hope.

Resources

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help right away, call 800-273-TALK (8255) or 800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Gabriela Cora, M.D., M.B.A., psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; William Shryer D.C.S.W., L.C.S.W., Clinical Director, Diablo Behavioral Healthcare, Danville, CA; LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., M.S.S., psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, M.D., L.W.W., 11th edition, 2014.

Summary

  • Learn the risks for suicide.
  • Take all threats seriously.
  • Get immediate expert help.

Even the most attentive parent or teacher cannot always spot danger signs in teens. One day, a high school student is floating in love; the next, they are down. Until the hormonal storms settle down, you have to expect a teen’s moods and behavior to be up, down, and all over the map.

In fact, the most obvious sign of danger may come when that uneven pattern changes, and a teen appears stuck in a single, bad frame of mind.

They may talk about being fed up with school. They may turn away from their old friends or start running around with a very different crowd. They talk nonstop about how they hate their boss at an afterschool job. Your teen snaps at family, with nothing good to say about anyone or anything. You cannot please them no matter how much you try. They are always angry, upset or sad.

In fact, your teen may be so hard to be around, you wish they would just stay in their room or go out with their friends, so you do not have to listen to so much negativity.

If this behavior is new or goes on for many weeks, parents should take heed. It could be a sign of serious depression. Without treatment, your teen may be at a higher risk of taking their own life. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 12-18, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Depression is a diagnosable and treatable condition, so it is important for a parent to get help right away for a child of any age. But, even if your teen is diagnosed with depression, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are having thoughts of taking their life.

Triggers for depression and/or suicide

Depression can come on slowly or can be triggered by an event that leaves a person feeling helpless.

Is your teen dealing with any of these issues?

  • Loss of a loved one, even a pet
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of a home
  • Serious illness in the family
  • Recent divorce of parents
  • Money problems in the family
  • Substance use in the family
  • Bullying at home, school or on a job
  • Moving to a new school

Bullying is nearly epidemic in some schools, where it wrecks young lives and even precipitates suicides. Some are taunted face-to-face. Others are ridiculed and humiliated in public through social media. Either way, bullying has long-term effects on a child’s mental health and suicide risk that can persist well into adulthood. That goes for both the bullies and those they go after.

Again, take bullying seriously. You can help your child by working with the school or neighborhood to stop the bullying of your teen or anyone else’s.

Signs of trouble

Keep your eyes and ears open to danger signs. Has your teen:

  • Changed appearance
  • Changed friends
  • Stopped engaging in favorite activities, such as sports, music lessons, community service, organized youth groups or recreation
  • Lost interest in the future
  • Missed school often due to oversleeping or not feeling well
  • Turned inward or stopped socializing with the family
  • Started doing risky things, such as drinking, dabbling in drugs, driving too fast, playing with weapons, staying out very late and/or getting into fights

Substance use raises the risk of suicide in many ways. First of all, alcohol is a depressant and so are many drugs people use to get high. Substance use can push a teen into depression, slowly. They may feel good while high, but crash after the drug wears off. Second, because they use drugs or drink, they can lose the support of their friends or family. Without that, they may drift deeper into untreated depression. Third, mind-altering substances lower a person’s inhibitions while they increase impulsiveness. Your teen might do something under the influence that they would never do, if sober.

No one behavior by itself is particularly significant, but if your teen has many of these behaviors, you should take a closer look at what is going on in that child’s life. Talk to your teen and say you are worried. Talk to parents of your teen’s friends to find out what their kids are doing.

Why is my teen at risk?

We all have losses and many of us have grown up in difficult circumstances, but some teens have more trouble handling problems than others.

Why does one child handle loss and another, cannot?

  • Some people are predisposed to depression, especially if other family have it. If a parent, for example, is depressed, the teen probably has had a dozen years or more to be affected by it, and may not have good mental health foundations to support them through a crisis.
  • Not all teens have good support systems. They need continuous support from people they can trust—such as parents, friends, teachers, clergy—to help them stay on track for a healthy life.
  • Too many bad things may pile up on someone who is not prepared to handle the load. All of a sudden, everything goes wrong. Not only did a parent punish the teen, but they got a failing grade, did not make the team, or their romantic partner found somebody else.

Depression builds on hopelessness, and that leads to despair. When the situation begins to overwhelm a person’s ability to stay emotionally afloat, suicide can look like a reasonable solution.

We all sometimes feel powerless before an avalanche of problems. Your teen may not have any experience with solving so many problems, and believe they are taking over their life. Everything once was so easy, and now it is so hard. Fate has turned against them, and they feel incompetent, fearful, useless and unable to control what happens next, but there is hope.

Resources

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help right away, call 800-273-TALK (8255) or 800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. Or go to www.suicide.org online. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Gabriela Cora, M.D., M.B.A., psychiatrist, author, wellness coach, Miami, FL; William Shryer D.C.S.W., L.C.S.W., Clinical Director, Diablo Behavioral Healthcare, Danville, CA; LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., M.S.S., psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, M.D., L.W.W., 11th edition, 2014.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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