Teen Suicide Risks

Recognizing childhood depressionTeen suicide is alarmingly common.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control, it is the third leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24 (following accidents and homicide).  Studies show that 4 out of 5 teen suicide attempts have been preceded by clear warning signs.  Parents and teens should be aware of some of the warning signs of depression and suicide.  The American Academy of Pediatrics describes the following signs that may signal that a depressed teen may be considering suicide:

Teen suicide warning signs

– withdrawal from friends and family members

– trouble in romantic relationships

– difficulty getting along with others

– changes in the quality of schoolwork or lower grades

– rebellious behaviors

– unusual gift-giving or giving away own possessions

– appearing bored or distracted

– writing or drawing pictures about death

– running away from home

– changes in eating habits

– dramatic personality changes

– changes in appearance (for the worst)

– sleep disturbances

– drug or alcohol abuse

– talk of suicide, even in a joking way

– having a history of previous suicide attempts

Note: The warning signs above are some typical behaviors which may be cause for concern.  This list is not intended to be all inclusive or a diagnostic tool.  Instead, it is a guide to increase awareness and prompt intervention.

How to help your child

If one or more of these signs occurs, parents need to talk to their child about their concerns and seek professional help from a physician or a qualified mental health professional.  Professional help should be sought immediately if a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts.  For 24-hour suicide prevention and support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.  In addition, you can contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for information and support regarding how to most-effectively help your child.  With support from family and appropriate treatment, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a more-healthy path of development.

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