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According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 47,173 people died by suicide in 2017. That’s nearly 1 person every 11 minutes. Suicide has become a major public health issue and families across the United States are in crisis as suicide has become the second leading cause of death for children and teens ages 10 to 18. Suicide rates continue to increase every year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased by 30% from 1999 to 2016.
There is a common belief that someone who thinks about or attempts suicide has a mental health disorder. However, in 2016, more than half (54%) of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Also, there is rarely one single factor that causes someone to consider suicide. Some of the issues that can contribute to suicide include substance use, trauma, untreated mental illness, physical health, financial stress, legal issues, housing and relationships.
Know the Risk Factors
- A prior suicide attempt
- A family history of suicide
- Exposure to traumatic experiences like family violence or physical and/or sexual abuse
- A family history of mental illness, depression, alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Chronic pain and certain medical conditions
Know the Warning Signs
- Talking about suicide, wanting to kill themselves or die
- Feeling hopeless
- Increased anxiousness, anger or rage
- Extreme mood changes
- Increased alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Withdrawn from family, friends and/or activities
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
- Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
How to Help Your Child
If your child or teen is experiencing suicidal thoughts, depression or other mental health issues, seek professional help immediately. Their suffering won’t just go away or pass with time. Get them the appropriate help to find the best path forward for your child.
There isn’t a “one size fits all” with treatment and children’s needs. Here are some steps you can take to find them help:
- Speak with your primary care physician or a community mental health center to receive a referral for a mental health specialist, if they don’t already have one.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
- Visit your local hospital or ER and ask for a consultation.
- If you’re in Kansas or Missouri, contact KVC Hospitals at (913) 890-7468 to learn about our youth psychiatric treatment programs near you. Click here to see all of our locations.
There are many preventative steps you can take to help a child or teen before they are in crisis. Here are some examples:
- Tell them that they matter. Positive reinforcement is important.
- Identify positive supports in their life (such as school, church, sports) and work together.
- Create opportunities for them to talk about their emotions. Actively listen.
- Encourage involvement in extracurricular activities and volunteering.
- Teach them healthy habits for caring for their body and brain.
- Work with them on stress tolerance and coping skills.
- Help them identify safe people, safe activities and safe places.
- Encourage therapy; you don’t have to be in crisis to seek help.
Keep reading below for frequently asked questions about suicide.
- SAMHSA Mental Health Services Locator
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- KVC Hospitals Admissions and Referrals
- Janelle Monáe: Why Everyone Needs Therapy
- You Can Create the Narrative for Suicide Prevention
- Understanding How Children Experience Psychiatric Crisis
- How to Help Your Teen Cope with Anxiety
- Signs and Risk Factors of Self-Harm in Youth
- 7 Common Myths About Teen Suicide
- Know the Risk Factors, Warning Signs of Suicide in Teens
Frequently Asked Questions
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. A suicide attempt is when a person attempts to end their life by suicide but survives.
Suicide does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity or social class. All people can be at risk.
No matter the motives a person shares, if they express and/or attempt suicide it should be taken seriously with immediate professional intervention.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, research shows that talking about suicide with a young person does not cause them to attempt or commit suicide. Talking with youth creates an opportunity to discuss feelings and thoughts that might otherwise remain hidden. Most youth who are contemplating suicide are honest and relieved when asked direct questions about their suicidal thoughts.