Opening the door to understanding teenage mental health and teen suicide prevention

Teen Suicide PreventionSuicide is the third leading cause of death of people ages 10 to 24 years old. While girls are more likely to attempt suicide, boys are more likely to die from suicide. We all can help prevent teen suicide by being familiar with the risk factors, knowing how to respond and removing the stigma from mental illness.

Risk Factors and Warning Signs

There are many risk factors and warning signs for suicide. These include:

  • Depression, social anxiety and schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Relationship loss
  • Isolation of lack of social support
  • Exposure to others who have attempted/committed suicide

Your Response

If you notice a teenager or young adult in your life with any of these risk factors or someone who is withdrawing from activities he or she used to enjoy, have an honest conversation with him or her. Say that you’ve noticed a change in behavior and want to see how he or she is feeling. Is he having any thoughts about hurting himself? The more open we are about having these conversations and reaching out to those around us, the safer we can make our community.

If someone tells you he or she is considering hurting him/herself, take it seriously. If a diabetic told you his blood sugar was too low, you wouldn’t tell him he’d get over it. Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses that can lead to thoughts of suicide are just that — an illness, and one that should be treated with the same consideration as any physical illness. Validate the person’s feelings and be supportive.

You can find immediate help for the person by calling 911, U-M Psychiatric Emergency Services (734-936-5900), the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-TALK) or at your hospital emergency department. Most local police departments train their staff so they know how to help someone who is feeling suicidal. Do not leave a suicidal person alone.

Safety at Home

If someone in your home is suicidal, in addition to seeking professional help, it’s important to make your home as safe as possible. Remove any firearms from the house. Most police departments will hold your firearms or you can give them to friends or family for safekeeping. Remove or lock up any poisons, pills or medications (including over-the-counter medications). Also remove or lock up alcohol as its presence in the home can also increase the risk of suicide.

Take the next steps:

Nicole Figueroa, RN, is the Clinical Nurse Supervisor for the Inpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatry unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.