How to Recognize if your Teen is at-risk for Suicide

We think of teens as being generally vibrant, energetic, and healthy, with the occasional bouts of age-appropriate angst. They are in a phase of life when they are growing and changing continually, and along with their development can come strong pressures and emotions. Here’s how you can know when what your teen reflects is a normal part of growing up and when your child might feel like it’s all becoming too much.

More Than a Phase

Just like adults, teens can experience ups and downs. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, young people are feeling so much despair that they are turning to suicide at an alarming rate. Teens are choosing to end their lives more than in the past, and with the recent uptick, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 34. With that metric, it’s clear that any concerns relating to teen suicide should be taken seriously.

Connect and Help

If you suspect your teen is struggling, it’s important to talk about what’s going on. Many parents are reluctant to discuss suicide with their kids for fear of planting a seed. Psychology Today explains that fear is unwarranted; in fact, a conversation about suicide can help open doors for help and healing. Consider bringing up a suicide in the news to help get things flowing. Kids are often more comfortable talking about challenging subjects when there is displacement, so ask if “anyone” had trouble with the news, and go from there. Remember to reassure your teen that you’ll be supportive, no matter what they tell you.

If your child isn’t open to talking with you, another avenue is to connect with a school counselor. These professionals are specially trained to help, often earning a master’s degree to prepare them for assisting kids through a variety of crises. From career-oriented decisions to emotional and social concerns, they can help your child sift through their issues to help them develop a healthier outlook on life and coping skills.

Warning Signs

How do you know when your child is going through routine teen development, or things are getting more serious? Teen suicide is often a response to an acute problem, like a conflict at school, with friends, or at home. One thing to watch for is a sudden change in mood and behavior. Some other warning signs parents can watch for include a preoccupation with death, reckless behavior, rages, talk of hopelessness or being a burden, social withdrawal, and increased use of drugs or alcohol.

Kids might also talk about things somewhat vaguely. Your child might say something like “I wish I could disappear” or “Everyone would be better off without me.” Phrases like these are cause for concern, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Warning signs indicate your child might be considering suicide. However, if you are concerned your youngster is an immediate threat to herself, call emergency services at 911 or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

There are other resources for families in a crisis as well. You may wish to plug some numbers into your phone or share them with your child, like ReachOut, 800-448-3000, where kids can connect without judgment, and, which offers free, confidential assistance toward a healthy relationship with drugs and alcohol.

Is My Child At-Risk?

Certain factors are felt to increase a teen’s risk for suicide, and while it’s important for parents to pay attention to their kids’ emotional status no matter what, parents whose children are at a higher risk should be particularly diligent. For instance, if your youngster has a history of a mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD, the risk for suicide is higher. If there is a family history of suicide, domestic violence, or abuse, the risk goes up. Youths who are being bullied are at an increased risk, as well as kids in flux regarding their sexual orientation.

Suicide is a growing problem, and if your child is struggling there is assistance. Talk openly about it, and connect with help as needed. The teen years can be challenging, and there is no need for kids or their parents to go it alone.


Melissa Howard,