Youth suicide is a public health crisis. It occurs among children and young people across all racial and ethnic groups, income levels, gender identities and community backgrounds.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults. While the risk of suicide increases during adolescence, a good support system can help prevent a teen from considering committing suicide.
Youth suicide is a very serious problem with tremendous costs to the individual, family, society and culture. Suicide is the most frequent cause of death among European young people aged 15-19 years (11.5% per 100,000 population).
There are a large number of risk factors that contribute to suicide in youth. However, some types of stressors are more often associated with suicide than others.
Some common stressors include the loss of a close friend, relationship break-ups or peer rejection. Other events such as school problems, academic stress and conflicts with parents are also linked to youth suicide. Especially for young people who are drifting without any particular structure, the risk of suicide is significantly increased.
Suicide attempts are one of the most common causes of death in children and teens. They can happen suddenly, or they may follow a stressful event.
Teens who are struggling with mental health issues, such as mood disorders or eating disorders, may experience a break from reality (psychosis). They might hear voices telling them to kill themselves, even though they don’t want to die.
Psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can also increase the risk of suicide. They may see things that aren’t there, have trouble forming relationships or be unable to cope with difficult emotions.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 15 to 24 in the U.S., and nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide. 9% of those surveyed have actually attempted suicide. The trend has been increasing in recent years, as evidenced by the deaths of Stanford soccer captain Katie Meyer and Ohio State football player Harry Miller.
Fortunately, there are many tools available to help prevent youth suicide. These include identifying warning signs, knowing how to have a conversation with your teen in crisis and finding professional help and resources.
Adolescents are at risk for suicide due to their growing brains and developing mental health issues that can be triggered by the stress of daily life. This includes anxiety, depression, and a range of psychiatric disorders such as drug-induced psychosis.
While these can be treated with psychiatric medication, they carry with them risks of suicidal ideation or attempt. Treatment for psychiatric disorders should be sought early in adolescence.
The primary prevention strategy for suicide is a comprehensive approach that incorporates health care, school, and community settings. This is the most effective way to save lives and reduce stigma and discrimination associated with adolescent suicide.
There are a variety of treatment options for youth who may be at risk for suicide. These options include medication, psychotherapy and a combination of both.
When treating teens with suicidal thoughts and behavior, it is important to identify the type of thought or behavior. Some behaviors are purely passive, while others involve active or active-in-progress suicidal ideation.
If your teen is expressing clear warning signs, such as delusions or hallucinations, seek professional help immediately. A psychiatrist or psychologist experienced in treating children with mental health problems is often the best person to consult for guidance.
Parents of teens who are struggling should also seek professional support and encouragement. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and reassure them that they are loved.