Warning Signs and Risk Factors

Suicide among teens is a disturbing social problem internationally. In the United States alone suicide is the third leading cause of death among this age group. The teen years are a challenging time of life for many young people. There are magnificent social pressures, family issues, and emotional concerns that can lead to depression. Depression has been closely linked with the incidence of suicide among young people. Additional risk factors may include the presence of learning disorders, mental health conditions, substance abuse problems, behavior difficulties, or trouble coping with stress.

Research shows that around 80 percent of attempted suicides among young people are preceded by clear warning signs. It's imperative that parents maintain involvement in their teen's lives so they can spot potential signs that may indicate a young person is considering suicide as an alternative. The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines the following warning signs that may indicate that a depressed teen may be contemplating suicide:

oGiving away possessions or offering unusual gifts
oProblems with a boyfriend or girlfriend
oRebellious behaviors such as smoking, running away, or skipping school
oGrades dropping or difficulties at school
oWithdrawal from friends and family members
oDisinterest in activities once enjoyed such as sports or clubs
oWriting poetry or letters about death. Drawing pictures relating to death
oDramatic changes in personality
oDrug or alcohol use or abuse
oChanges in sleep patterns
oIncreased or decreased appetite
oHistory of suicide attempts. Many attempts are typically made before a suicide is actually carried out
oTalking about suicide
oA sudden shift to extreme cheerfulness after a period of depression. This could signal that a teen has made a final decision to complete a suicide
oDramatic weight gains or weight losses

There are risk factors that have been shown to make some teens more vulnerable to suicide. A male teen that has previously attempted suicide is thirty times more likely to complete a suicide while a girl with a prior attempt is three times more likely to fulfill the attempt. A family history of suicide attempts or of a successful lawsuit within the family increases risk. Many teen suicides involve the use of firearms. It's important to keep firearms secure at all times so that teens do not have access to the weapons. A young person who has suffered physical, mental, or sexual abuse may also be more likely to choose suicide as a viable option. It's possible that academic failure and induction of other teen suicides can influence suicidal behavior among young people.

Support is a major key to helping a teen that may be considering suicide. Therapy with a qualified mental health therapist may be necessary to help a troubled teen sort through the issues that they are dealing with. Medication for depression may also be an option to assist an adolescent get back on track. Any indication of a suicide plan should be taken very seriously. A teen may actually make statements that they want to die or that they want to kill them. It becomes a crisis when the young person outlines how they might carry out the act. At this point, it's time to seek professional help immediately for the young person struggling with suicidal thoughts.