Teen Suicide: Recognizing the signs

Identifying Risks

  • Abrupt changes in personality
  • Giving away possessions
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Inability to tolerate frustration
  • Use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Change in eating patterns; significant weight changes
  • Unwillingness or inability to communicate
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Extreme or extended boredom
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Accident prone (carelessness), hostile or reckless behavior
  • Unusually long grief reaction
  • Unusual sadness, discouragement and loneliness
  • Neglect of personal appearance, lack of self esteem
  • Major loss (of loved one, home, through divorce, trauma, relationship)
  • Running away from home or truancy from school, rebelliousness
  • Withdrawal (from people, especially close friends, family or favorite activities)
  • Perfectionism
  • Restlessness, anxiety, stress
  • Problems with school or the law
  • Unexpected pregnancy
  • A stressful family life
  • Family history of suicide

How You Can Help a Suicidal Teenager

  • Listen, don’t lecture.
  • Do not leave the youth alone.
  • Accept what is said and take it seriously.
  • Ask directly if the youth is thinking of suicide.
  • Determine if the youth has a plan.
  • Try to focus on the problem.
  • Help increase the perception of alternatives.
  • Help the youth recall how they used to cope.
  • Evaluate the resources available and help identify the resources needed to improve things.
  • Do not be misled by comments that he/she is past the emotional crisis.
  • Act respectfully.
  • Do not avoid asking for assistance and consultation.

This material was adapted from the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program.