Teen suicide is a devastating epidemic that destroys young lives, shatters families, and leaves a wake of sadness and confusion for those left behind. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for 5-to-14 year-olds, and the third leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year-olds.
Yet, teen suicide is preventable. Eighty percent of teens talk about suicide before taking action, and four out of five teens who attempt suicide display warning signs beforehand. Sadly, many people are too afraid to offer help, don't take the warning signs seriously, or just don't know to respond.
You can help prevent teen suicide by learning to recognize the warning signs and by knowing where to direct someone to get help.
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Step 1: Recognize the warning signs and risk factors
The following warning signs may mean that a teen is at risk for suicide. These warning signs must be taken seriously.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Actively looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feelings of hopelessness
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Acting anxious or agitated; reckless behavior
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
Risk factors can increase a teen’s risk of suicide. Please keep in mind that experiencing one or more of these issues does not automatically mean a teen is considering suicide. One must look at both the warning signs and risk factors to determine whether the person is in danger.
Step 2: Direct the person to get help
If you see a teen displaying the warning signs listed above, here’s what you can do:
- Direct them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) immediately. You can also call the Lifeline number to talk to a crisis counselor about how to help the person.
- If the young adult is LGBT, direct them to call The Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386, or they can chat to someone online at TrevorChat.
- If the teen is displaying warning signs over social media, please report the behavior immediately to get that person help:
- Facebook: Click here to anonymously report someone as being suicidal. A member of Facebook’s Safety Team will send the user an email with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number and a link to chat with a live counselor.
- Twitter: Click here and select “Self-Harm” to send an email to Twitter reporting a suicidal user. Twitter will send the user a direct message with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.
- YouTube: To report suicidal video content, click on the flag icon under a video and select “Harmful Dangerous Acts” and then “Suicide or Self-Injury.” YouTube will review the video and may send a message to the user that uploaded the video with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.
- Tumblr: Click here to email Tumblr about a suicidal user. Please include as much information as possible. A member of Tumblr’s Safety Team will send the user an email with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.
Step 3: Promote suicide prevention