Preventing Youth Suicide

Many things can help prevent suicide, including: A strong, positive relationship with parents, access to mental health services, limiting weapons in the home, and community support. Family members, teachers, coaches and other extracurricular activity leaders, friends, and religious or spiritual communities can all play a role.

Recognize warning signs and take them seriously. For many youths who are considering suicide, an intervention by a caring adult can make all the difference.


Depression and low self-esteem are common risk factors for suicide. Many teens who kill themselves have been battling long-term depression, often paired with other conditions such as an eating disorder or a mental health condition like schizophrenia (which can cause hearing voices, known as auditory hallucinations). Substance abuse is also a factor in suicide; teenagers may use alcohol or drugs to break from reality and hide their problems.

Teens need someone to talk to about their feelings and problems, such as a friend or family member, teacher, counselor, doctor or faith leader. They need to be reassured that their suicidal thoughts are very treatable, and that they will have a chance to turn their lives around.

If your teen won’t agree to a visit with a mental health professional, you should go, as this will ensure that they receive care. Depression and suicidal thoughts can come and go, so treatment must continue on a regular basis.


During adolescence, young people experience major physical, social and emotional changes. These can be stressful and leave them feeling overwhelmed. Feelings of confusion, doubt and external pressure can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

Some youth are at higher risk than others for mental health problems that can contribute to suicide. For example, kids from low socioeconomic status families are more likely to be at risk. Kids who have experienced family trauma, such as the death of a loved one, separation or divorce or domestic violence are also at risk for suicide.

It’s important for parents, teachers and friends to watch out for signs that a kid may be suicidal. They include becoming withdrawn, moody or irritable and losing interest in activities that they usually enjoy. Signs can also include sleep changes or eating difficulties. If a teen is talking about suicide or has made previous attempts, it’s crucial to get help immediately. It’s also important to let them know that they don’t have to do it alone and that there are ways to get help.


There is a common belief that self-harm is part of youth subcultures like goth or emo, but it’s actually not true. Boys and girls can both engage in this behaviour, for a variety of reasons. The fact is, it’s a serious problem that needs to be taken seriously.

Some young people who hurt themselves use it to try and cope with difficult feelings and thoughts. But they are also at risk of bigger problems down the line, like major depression and drug and alcohol addiction. It’s important to treat any episode of self-harm as a medical emergency, and seek treatment right away.

One of the ways to prevent suicide is to get better support in schools. For example, a program called Signs of Suicide has been shown in randomized controlled trials to increase knowledge about suicide risk and improve adaptive attitudes among high school students. The Centers for Disease Control has information about suicide prevention and treatment, including links to some statistical databases: WISQARS, YRBSS, and NCDSS.


The teen years are filled with major changes in the body. This can create strong feelings of stress, confusion and fear. These feelings may lead to depression, anxiety and a desire for escape or relief from these feelings by taking one’s life.

Several risk factors contribute to suicide in youth. They include relationship conflicts (e.g. with parents or a boy/girl friend) and physical or psychiatric illness in the family. Risk also increases with the number of suicide attempts in the past and access to lethal means (e.g., drugs or guns).

Protective factors that can reduce the effects of these risk factors include peer and family support, social connections, healthy problem-solving skills and good medical/mental health care. In addition, schools can help by providing trained staff and safe spaces for talking about problems. The key is to take warning signs seriously. This includes asking a friend about suicide and listening to what they say.