among young people nationwide have increased dramatically
in recent years. Each year in the U.S., thousands of teenagers
commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death
for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death
experience strong feelings of stress, confusion, self-doubt,
pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, and other fears
while growing up.
teenagers, divorce, the formation of a new family with step-parents
and step-siblings, or moving to a new community can be very
unsettling and can intensify self-doubts. In some cases, suicide
appears to be a "solution."
and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. The
child or adolescent needs to have his or her illness recognized
and diagnosed, and appropriate treatment plans developed.
When parents are in doubt whether their child has a serious
problem, a psychiatric examination can be very helpful.
the symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of
depression. Parents should be aware of the following signs
of adolescents who may try to kill themselves:
in eating and sleeping habits
from friends, family, and regular activities
actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
and alcohol use
neglect of personal appearance
boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality
complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions,
such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
of interest in pleasurable activities
tolerating praise or rewards
who is planning to commit suicide may also:
of being a bad person or feeling "rotten inside"
verbal hints with statements such as: "I won't be a problem
for you much longer," "Nothing matters," "It's no use,"
and "I won't see you again"
his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite
possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important
suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts)
If a child
or adolescent says, "I want to kill myself," or "I'm going
to commit suicide," always take the statement seriously and
seek evaluation from a child and adolescent psychiatrist or
other physician. People often feel uncomfortable talking about
death. However, asking the child or adolescent whether he
or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful.
Rather than "putting thoughts in the child's head," such a
question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will
give the young person the chance to talk about problems.
or more of these signs occurs, parents need to talk to their
child about their concerns and seek professional help when
the concerns persist. With support from family and professional
treatment, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal
and return to a more healthy path of development.
information, see Facts for Families;
#3 "Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs,"
#4 "The Depressed Child,"
#37 "Children and Firearms," and
#38 "Manic-Depressive Illness in Teens."
#10 Updated 11/98