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Why some teens consider suicide

Teen suicide usually follows a long period of depression and despair. But suicide doesn't have to happen. Parents, teachers and other adults can help keep a depressed teen from giving up on life.

For many families, teenage suicide is all too real.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Why?

A number of things can contribute to a teen's risk for suicide. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the CDC, they may include:

  • Bullying.
  • Exposure to violence.
  • Access to lethal medications or firearms.
  • Pressure to succeed.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.

One of the underlying causes of teen suicide is depression, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Depressed teens often go through a whirlwind of emotions, including low self-esteem, hopelessness, anger and loneliness. Many teens who consider suicide say they feel their families don't understand them and that their emotions aren't taken seriously. They see suicide as the only solution to their problems.

What you can do

Teen suicide is preventable. But to overcome depression and thoughts of suicide, the teen will need help from parents, teachers and other adults.

The first thing you can do is to watch for signs of depression. A depressed teen may become involved with drugs or alcohol, withdraw from other people, have trouble at school, or talk of death or suicide, according to the AAP.

If your teen seems depressed, the AAP recommends that you:

Talk. Ask the teen questions about his or her problems and listen to the answers. Never make light of or ignore the teen's concerns.

Be honest. Tell your teen if you're worried about his or her behavior. Asking about suicide won't cause your teen to consider it. Instead it will show that you care. It will also give the teen a chance to talk about his or her problems.

Share your feelings. Let your teen know that he or she is not alone and that everyone feels sad and depressed sometimes. Make sure your son or daughter knows there is hope. Even serious depression is treatable.

Seek help. Talk to a trained professional about diagnosing and treating your teen's depression. Don't wait for depression to go away. Even if your teen suddenly seems better, keep watch. Without treatment, feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide often return.

Responding to a crisis

If your teen seems actively suicidal, call 911, call a crisis center, or take him or her to the emergency room, HelpGuide.org advises. Get rid of anything your son or daughter could use to harm himself or herself, such as medications, guns, razors and knives.

Reviewed 10/8/2021

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