Warning signs of suicide in children and teens
Almost 1 in 4 teenagers considers suicide. It is uncommon for younger children to attempt suicide unless they are victims of abuse.
It is extremely important that you take all threats of suicide seriously and seek immediate treatment for your child or teenager. If you are a child or teen and have these feelings, talk with your parents, an adult friend, or your doctor right away to get some help.
Certain problems increase the chances of suicidal thoughts in children and teens, while other problems may trigger a suicide attempt.
Problems that increase the chances of suicidal thoughts include having:
- Depression or another mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) or schizophrenia.
- A parent with depression or substance abuse problems.
- Tried suicide before.
- A friend, peer, family member, or hero (such as a sports figure or musician) who recently attempted or committed suicide.
- A disruptive or abusive family life.
- A history of sexual abuse.
Problems that may trigger a suicide attempt in children and teens include:
- Possession or purchase of a weapon, pills, or other means of inflicting self-harm.
- Drug or alcohol use problems.
- Witnessing the suicide of a family member.
- Problems at school, such as falling grades, disruptive behavior, or frequent absences.
- Loss of a parent or close family member through death or divorce.
- Legal or discipline problems.
- Stress caused by physical changes related to puberty, chronic illness, and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Staying separate from others and keeping thoughts to themselves.
- Uncertainty surrounding sexual orientation (such as bisexuality or homosexuality).
Some common warning signs for suicide include:
- Making suicidal statements.
- Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, or drawing.
- Giving away belongings.
- Withdrawal from friends and family.
- Aggressive or hostile behavior.
Other warning signs can include:
- Running away from home.
- Risk-taking behavior, such as reckless driving or being sexually promiscuous.
- Neglect of personal appearance.
- A change in personality (such as from upbeat to quiet).
Signs of depression, which can lead to suicidal behavior, include:
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
- Difficulty thinking and concentrating.
- Complaints of continued boredom.
- Complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue with no actual physical problems.
- Expressions of guilt; not allowing anyone to give him or her praise or rewards.
FDA Advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, a person taking antidepressants should be watched for warning signs of suicide. This is especially important at the beginning of treatment or when doses are changed.