Warning Signs of Youth Suicide

Many people think that when teenagers talk about suicide they are seeking attention. But a teenager who is suicidal shows warning signs that should be taken seriously, including sadness or avoiding friends and family, dangerous behavior, anxiety and drugs.

There are also protective factors that decrease the risk of youth suicide. These include family support and close friendships, access to good health care and mental health services, a sense of purpose and strong problem-solving skills.

Mental illness

While the majority of youth manage to survive and successfully navigate the tumultuous adolescent period without any mental health problems, suicide rates are much higher for teenagers than people in other age groups. These rates increase with increasing age worldwide.

The transition from suicidal thoughts to suicide attempts typically occurs impulsively as a response to acute psychosocial stressors. This transition can be exacerbated by the availability of means, which could be facilitated by a lowered sense of social belonging in society due to immigration and urbanisation. The method used can also determine the lethality of the suicide attempt.

In addition, some concrete stressful events, such as conflicts with parents or school problems, precede most suicide cases in adolescents. The psychiatric disorder major depression is a risk factor for suicide but it is important to note that not all young people with thoughts of self-destruction are depressed. They may be agitated or angry, and this does not necessarily indicate that they are at risk of killing themselves.

Substance use

Substance use refers to the misuse of alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription medications. Illicit substances include hallucinogens, such as PCP and LSD; sedative or hypnotics, such as sleeping pills, benzodiazepines and barbiturates; analgesics, such as opioids and heroin; and stimulants, including cocaine and methamphetamine. Substance abuse can cause alterations in brain chemistry, causing an individual to prioritize drug use over other activities that would normally create feelings of pleasure.

Depression is the biggest cause of suicide, and many people who experience depression also struggle with substance abuse. In fact, a person who has a mood disorder is twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide.

The contribution of substance use to suicidal behavior differs between boys and girls, but it is still associated with higher rates of suicidal ideation, planning and attempts. This is especially true for ketamine and MDMA. Gun violence may also have a negative impact on youth mental health. This includes school shootings, as well as shootings and other injuries related to firearms in the community.

Family and peer relationships

Adolescence is a time of important developmental changes in relationships with family members and peers. These changes can contribute to, or protect against psychopathology and risky behavior. However, prior research on the relationship between adolescent non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and interpersonal factors has been limited by narrowly focused studies, cross-sectional methods, and retrospective self-report of childhood experiences.

Adolescent NSSI has been found to be related to several interpersonal factors including social support, peer victimization, and negative views of peers. Additionally, adolescent NSSI is often associated with parental disapproval and neglect.

It has also been found that some specific family situations increase adolescent suicide risk, such as parental suicidal behaviors, physical harm by parents, lack of other adult family support, living apart from one or both parents, mental illness in a parent, and family violence. It is essential to understand the relationship between family-related factors and youth suicide to better inform interventions aimed at preventing NSSI among adolescents.


As youths go through the adolescent period, they experience major physical and emotional changes. They may have many fears, concerns, and anxieties that can contribute to thoughts of suicide. They often give warning signs of their distress, including talking about or threatening suicide, being more withdrawn or moody, sleeping and eating habits changing, giving away treasured items, etc. It is important to take these warning signs seriously.

Research shows that trauma and stress can contribute to youth suicide. This can include being bullied, a family history of mental illness or suicide, prior suicidal attempts, a substance use disorder, struggling with sexual orientation in a non-accepting culture, and being part of a minority group.

The suicide of a friend or family member can also be a strong trigger. Other risk factors for suicide include: a family history of depression, being a girl in a boys-only school, or having a sibling with mental illness. Taking into account all of these factors can help us develop effective suicide prevention programs for young people.