Help Stop Teenage Suicide

This brochure provides information about commonly held myths and warning signs for suicide and offers practical suggestions to parents, teachers, and teenagers to help prevent suicide. The most important concept is that teenagers are passionate, so many suicide attempts occur with very little forethought. Survivors of teen suicide attempts relate that the interval between the decision to take one's life and the attempt is often less than 1 hour. Moreover, mood disorders, conduct disorders, and other mental health issues are prominent in the later teenage years. While this material complements other AAP resources regarding teen mental health issues, it does not substitute for more in-depth discussions about adolescent mental health issues.

There are some concepts that are worth reiterating.

  • Teenagers unsure about their sexual orientation, or who have identified themselves as homosexual, are at far greater risk for suicide. These teenagers and their families may wish to join local support groups for help.
  • The presence of a handgun increases the likelihood that a suicide attempt will be lethal. It is important for the clinician to discuss the removal of handguns from the home of any teenager who has a mental health issue.
How to Use This Tool

  • This brochure can open dialogue about intense and passionate emotions teenagers experience as a segue to asking directly about suicide thoughts. "Many teenagers have had suicidal thoughts or feelings. Are there times that you have had thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself?" This brochure can be used as an aid for communities and schools when teenagers in the community have committed or attempted suicide to prevent contagious suicide events.
  • This brochure can be an introductory tool for developing family safety plans with patients who are known to be at risk or have had suicidal thoughts, including teens with known mental health or severe social difficulties or teens with high emotional intensity and impulsivity.
Helpful Hints

  • Introducing the topic indirectly may encourage more verbalization of the teenager's concerns, but direct questions about suicidal thoughts should not be avoided. "Many teenagers know someone who has been suicidal or attempted suicide. Has this occurred for you?" Review teenagers' emotional supports.
  • Clinicians should be aware of psychiatric crisis services numbers and how to access emergency psychiatric services.

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