What to Do about the Rise in Teen Suicide

Here are some suicide warning signs to look out for – and ways you can help.

In 2017, the show ’13 Reasons Why’ premiered on Netflix. The series told the story of a teen who committed suicide, leaving behind a set of 13 tapes explaining why she took her own life. After the show’s release, controversy ensued about whether the show caused an increase in teen suicide – but no definitive link was found between the show and suicide rates. However, the show spurred important conversations about teen suicide and shed light on alarming statistics.

Although it is not exactly clear why more kids and teens consider or attempt suicide than ever before, experts agree that teenage suicide is a crucial issue that must be addressed. The suicide rate among people ages 10 to 24 increased 56% between 2000 and 2017, making it the second-leading cause of death among teens, after unintentional injuries (accidents).

If you’re concerned that a teenager you know is at risk for suicide, here are some signs to watch for and ways to help.

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Social withdrawal
  • Violent or rebellious behavior
  • Drastic personality changes or mood swings
  • Restless, agitated or panicky behavior
  • Truancy, vandalism or sexual promiscuity
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Talking/writing about committing suicide, even as a joke

How You Can Help

  • Don’t ignore the problem or brush off actions as being due to “rebellious teen years.” Offer your teen the support and compassion they’re craving.
  • When they want to talk, just listen without judgment.
  • Talking about suicide doesn’t lead to suicide, so don’t be afraid to discuss it openly and honestly. Don’t attempt to sugarcoat it – use the word “suicide.”
  • Remove or secure anything in the home that could be used to commit suicide, including firearms, pills, sharp knives and ropes.
  • Seek professional help. Your teen needs to learn new ways of coping with life’s problems. Talking with someone will be helpful, even after the immediate crisis is over.
  • If you think your teen is at imminent risk, take him/her to the emergency room immediately. It’s too difficult a situation to handle alone.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 4, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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