Causes of Youth Suicide

Teen suicide has been on the rise for years. Researchers have analyzed mortality rates and trends worldwide to see what the causes are.

Some of the warning signs include frequent complaining of stomachaches or headaches, withdrawing from friends, and apathy about work and school. Drug abuse is also common in teens who commit suicide.


Stress from everyday problems like bullying, family or school pressures and recurring physical health issues can lead to suicide in youth. Often, these small worries and discomforts are ignored by kids, and can accumulate over time. This can affect the body physically, as well, and contribute to chronic diseases like allergies.

Certain groups of kids are at higher risk of suicidal thoughts, including LGBTQ youth and children from low-income backgrounds. Kids who have experienced trauma, or separation from loved ones due to abuse, violence or death may also be at risk. Other warning signs include increased alcohol or drug use, and changes in sleep and eating patterns. Research shows that training gatekeepers to recognize and respond to warning signs can lower rates of suicide among kids.


Depression, a mood disorder that can cause people to feel helpless and hopeless, is a leading risk factor in suicide among teens. It can make teens more vulnerable to suicide when they experience other risk factors or life stressors such as academic pressure, drug use, loss of a valued relationship or frequent changes in residence or family patterns.

A depressed teen may seem more isolated or withdrawn, spend less time grooming, show drastic change in school performance and/or appearance, or write suicide notes. They may be irritable, angry and impulsive.

Teens who are suicidal need to talk with someone they trust, such as a physician or counselor. They also need to be reassured that they are not alone and their feelings are treatable. They need to be given a mix of medications and therapy to recover from depression and the desire to kill themselves.


In addition to the underlying depression, anxiety may be another factor in youth suicide. The combination of chronic stress, self-doubt, peer pressure to perform, financial uncertainty and relationship conflicts can cause a teen or young person to feel trapped and hopeless. When they are unable to find help or relief, they may decide that killing themselves is the only way out.

If your teen is talking about suicide, it’s important to listen without judgment and offer support. Make sure that they have access to a mental health professional and restrict access to lethal means, like medication, cigarettes or weapons. Treatment options for anxiety include talk therapy, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Some healthcare professionals may prescribe medications from the benzodiazepine class of antidepressants, including alprazolam (Xanax). In some cases, it can also help to take regular exercise, avoid caffeine, alcohol and drugs.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Although it is true that people with OCD are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, many of these people do not attempt suicide or do not complete suicide. However, it is important to take this issue seriously and monitor suicide symptoms in these patients as they undergo treatment.

In a recent study, researchers used a matched case-cohort design to compare lifetime suicidal behavior in individuals with OCD who were referred for treatment to a psychiatric clinic with those from the general population who did not seek care. The results of this study showed that OCD alone was associated with a significantly increased risk for suicidal behavior.

This finding may be due to the high rates of comorbidity with OCD, and to the fact that suicide attempts are often based on a combination of factors including OCD. It also seems that childhood trauma and/or early adversities, such as physical or sexual abuse, severe punishments, and a lack of trust in others, are risk factors for OCD-related suicidality.


Addiction is a serious problem that can lead to youth suicide. Young people who use alcohol and drugs are at risk of academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), involvement with the juvenile justice system, and poor peer relationships.

Drug use can exacerbate underlying mental health issues and cause new ones, increasing the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour. Additionally, the use of drugs can result in social isolation, making it harder for people to reach out for help.

If you know someone who is abusing substances, don’t hesitate to have an open and non-judgmental conversation with them. If they exhibit warning signs, or are at risk of attempting suicide, seek emergency department treatment. You may also want to contact a crisis centre in your area.