Do not ignore statements about suicide, even if they seem casual or fake. Do not assume the person is joking or does not really mean it. If someone hints they want to commit suicide or the world would be better off without them, TELL SOMEONE. Tell an adult, parent, teacher, counselor, police officer, or anyone who can provide immediate intervention. Do not make the mistake in thinking that young children (under age 12) will not commit suicide.
Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Conditions: Early involvement of mental health professionals may prevent suicide attempts. Special caution should be taken with children who are taking anti-depressant medication as health officials have issued warnings that these medications might increase the risk of hostility, mood swings, aggression, and suicide in children and adolescents.
Observation of Behaviors: Watch for warning signs and risk factors. Notice changes in a young person’s psychological state and pay attention to how they interact with family/friends. Ask yourself, is he or she withdrawn, engaging in reckless behavior, or using drugs or alcohol?
Examples of warning signs:
Examples of risk factors:
- giving away possessions
- abruptly changing personality (increasing rage or sadness)
- engaging in reckless behavior
- chronic anxiety
- unwillingness to communicate
- becoming withdrawn
- previously attempting suicide
Watch: The months following a suicide attempt or severe depression are a time of increased risk, no matter how well the child seems to be doing. This is a critical time for family interaction and securing support systems.
- a romantic breakup or rejection
- an unexpected pregnancy
- feelings of failure or letting others down (hopelessness)
- a serious illness or injury to oneself or to a loved one
- a major loss such as a death or a divorce
- stress due to new situations, such as relocating to a new community or school
Limit Access to Lethal Agents: Easily obtained or improperly secured medicine, firearms, and other weapons are often used in suicides. The harder it is for children to put their hands on these items, the more likely they are to rethink their intentions, allowing time for someone to intervene.
Talk About the Issue: Bringing up suicide does not “give kids the idea”, but rather gives them the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and concerns. This communication can be a significant deterrent.
Additional mental health information and resources for suicide prevention are available at:
1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE
American Academy of Pediatrics
Local Suicide Prevention Hotlines
American Association of Suicidology
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
National Institute of Mental Health