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What Parents Should Know About Youth Suicide

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens in the United States and is a larger risk than homicide. However, suicide is often preventable.

For a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. For immediate help with a mental health crisis, call 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

What are the Warning Signs?

Seek help as soon as possible for your child if you become aware of:

  • Extreme mood changes
  • Sudden appetite or weight changes
  • Talk about suicide, death, or wishing to "go away and never come back"
  • Giving away prized personal items to loved ones
  • Writing a will, planning a funeral, or creating poems, letters or art that is focused on death and/or dying
  • Self-injury, harm to animals, or fire-setting
  • Sudden decline in grades, social isolation, or antisocial behavior
  • Excessive or little-to-no sleep
  • Your child's desire to be with someone who is deceased
  • Unexplained physical complaints

What Can I do to Reduce My Child’s Risk of Suicide?

  • Keep all firearms locked up, with ammunition locked in a separate place.
  • Monitor your child for signs of substance use and abuse
  • If your child takes prescription medicine, ensure they take them correctly and keep all treatment appointments. Discuss any problems with your provider. Don’t stop giving the medicine to your child without consulting with the provider.
  • Insist your child spends a significant amount of time outside of their room every day.
  • If you are concerned your child may be self-injuring, remove objects that can be used for this from their room.
  • Attend to physical complaints and seek out health care when needed.
  • Get involved with your child’s school and find out if there are concerns.
  • Ask lots of questions. Find out who your child eats with and visits. Know what they do with their spare time.
  • Model healthy coping skills like reading, exercising, and talking things out.
  • Have the courage to set limits. It’s OK to say no to any activity you feel puts your child at risk.
  • Seek professional support if your child is exposed to trauma (like a friend's suicide, a sudden death of a loved one, or abuse).
  • Find out what you can do to monitor texting, social media activity, and internet searches.