Teenage suicide is every parent’s worst fear, and each year it claims the lives of thousands under the age of 18. Suicide was the 10th most common cause of death in the United States in 2019, making it a real public health concern for families across the country.

The high suicide rate in the U.S. often relates to a lack of mental health treatment (in both outpatient and inpatient capacities) for those who suffer from conditions like depression and bipolar disorder. Thankfully, suicide is often preventable when warning signs are dealt with swiftly and seriously. Concerned families that take precautionary steps can prevent their adolescents from committing suicide and help them lead long, prosperous lives.

Know the Warning Signs

Preventing suicide in children and adolescents begins with understanding the risk factors and associated behaviors. Suicide is most often the tragic outcome of untreated mental health conditions like depression and other ancillary illnesses such as bipolar disorder and anxiety.

Teens may have a higher risk of attempting suicide if other family members have a history of mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, or previous suicide attempts. They may also be more likely to consider suicide if they suffer from depression themselves or have been victims of neglect and abuse.

It is important to remember that not all teens who commit suicide have been diagnosed with mental health issues or experience problems in the home. Saving lives begins with looking for potential warning signs of suicide, which can include:

  • Unusual withdrawn or isolated behavior
  • Talking about feeling like a burden to others
  • Saying they feel trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Reckless behavior; showing signs of rage and agitation
  • Sudden and extreme mood swings
  • Excessive use of drugs and alcohol
  • Talking about wanting to hurt and/or kill themselves

Individuals who commit suicide often see it as the only option they have to relieve their suffering. Paying attention to your child’s behavior and catching warning signs early is the best way to prevent youth suicide from affecting your family.

RELATED: Read more about youth mental health in our blog: Why it’s important to talk about children’s mental health

Create An Emergency Plan

Once you have identified the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, the next step is to create a suicide prevention strategy for your family. The suicide prevention lifeline website provides a variety of resources for families to protect their children from suicide risk.

Explore online and community resources to learn what strategies have worked for others and decide what will work best for your family. You can also research behavioral health resources in your area that specialize in family counseling and keep their information handy.

Remember that in life-threatening emergency situations, ALWAYS call 911 for help from medical professionals who can make a clinical assessment of your child’s outpatient or inpatient mental health treatment needs.

Talk to Your Child About Suicide

One of the most important ways you can prevent suicide in your family is to create an open dialogue with your children about their mental health. Growing up often feels very challenging for adolescents approaching young adulthood and may feel impossible when compounded with untreated mental health issues.

Creating a safe space for your children to discuss their feelings is a great way to stay connected and catch potential warning signs before it’s too late. Communicating with your children also allows you to detect changes in their mood or behavior more easily and understand the best way to approach them if you become concerned.

When to Get Help

No matter how many steps families take to prevent youth suicide, seeking help from a behavioral healthcare professional is sometimes the only option. When adolescents display multiple warning signs and continue to push their family members away, it is time to find a counselor who can help diagnose and treat their condition.

Further, in some cases, your child’s behavioral health counselor may suggest short or long-term inpatient care to ensure their safety. Inpatient care provides adolescents with consistent care and monitoring while they — and their care team — navigate the best way to diagnose, treat, and ultimately improve their mental health.

Learn more about how behavioral health and inpatient care practices can create safer environments for their staff and patients using ObservSMART technology. Send us a message to request a demo.