Youth Suicide – A Devastating Public Health Problem

The suicide rate for teens has increased in the past 30 years. Now it is the second leading cause of death for youth in this age range.

Suicide is a complex problem that requires a holistic approach. Physician scientists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are focused on making life-saving connections through rigorous research to identify those at risk for youth suicide and find novel ways to intervene.

Risk Factors

The risk of suicide is influenced by a variety of factors. These can be genetic, biological, personal or socio-cultural.

Depression is a risk factor for suicide, as is family history of suicide. A history of mental health problems or substance abuse can also increase a teenager’s risk.

Another risk factor is bullying. Kids who are bullied face an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions.

These are challenges that kids face throughout their lives, whether they’re at school, home or online.

Many of these problems are out of their control, but if they’re identified early, they can be treated. Parents and families can help kids overcome them. For instance, they can teach their kids to cope with stress through healthy relationships and help them recognize when something is wrong. They can also be a support for their kids if they become depressed. Teenagers can also learn how to talk to people who can help them, so they don’t feel isolated.


Teenagers can suffer from a variety of troubling emotions and experiences. They may feel hopeless and isolated, or that their lives are out of control.

Those with good support networks (for example, among family members, peers, or extracurricular sport or religious associations) are less likely to think about suicide. They also are more likely to be able to deal with their feelings in other ways, such as through talking, doing physical activities or taking care of themselves.

Young people who have a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, are more likely to try suicide. They may have hallucinations, delusions or other psychotic symptoms that lead them to believe they should die.

Children often commit suicide by hanging, jumping from a high place, running into traffic or poisoning themselves with drugs they have saved up. Adolescents also use more varied methods, including firearms.


Youth suicide is a devastating problem that affects many lives. CDC data show that suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens in the United States and one of the top three causes of death for young people under the age of 18.

Adolescence is a time of tremendous growth and potential. However, transitions and other mental health challenges can lead to a range of emotional issues that put adolescents at increased risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Treatment for suicidal behavior and thoughts often involves a combination of medication, therapy, and stress-reducing techniques. This treatment plan should be individualized and tailored to fit the needs of the teen and may include psychiatric medication and psychotherapy (if applicable).

Youth suicide is an important public health issue that requires urgent action. Pediatricians have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people who are at risk by providing evidence-based suicide risk screening paired with treatment strategies for those who screen positive.


Youth suicide is a serious and preventable public health problem. Suicide can be prevented with education, prevention programs and other strategies that promote mental health and resilience in youth.

Adolescence is a period of intense development in which the brain undergoes many changes and the young person needs to cope with physical growth, social and peer pressure, family relationships, emotional intimacy and career planning. These life stressors can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues that increase the risk for suicide.

When school personnel and parents are educated about the warning signs and risk factors, they can identify students who may be at risk for suicide and help them before they commit a suicide. The best prevention programs are integrated into school curriculums and include strategies that promote self-esteem, teach stress management and develop support networks for at-risk youth.