Preventing Suicide in Teens: What You Need to Know
Did you know, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the United States for ages 10-35? Although teens were struggling with- mental health issues before COVID-19, early findings indicate that feelings of hopelessness and serious contemplation of suicide have increased due to the pandemic. This is very concerning since suicide rates have been increasing every year since 2007 for those ages 10 to 24; rates increased by nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018, according to the CDC.
Teens who already have mental health issues, approximately 13.3% of our youth ages 12-17, are at a higher risk of their conditions worsening. Increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder have been found among youth of various age groups as a result of the pandemic. COVID-19 has forced us all to change our routines and adapt to a new normal removed from social, physical, and educational interactions. Adolescents are also affected by the impact this has had on their caregivers, including financial and emotional stress, unemployment, the fear of infection, and some being forced to spend more time in abusive and dysfunctional homes.
What’s alarming is that in 2020 the CDC saw a 31% jump in suspected suicide attempts in emergency rooms among youth ages 12-17 (compared to 2019); It was a 51% increase among girls. Weekly number of emergency room visits increase nearly 40% in Winter 2021.
In CT, almost 14% of high schoolers consider suicide each year and 8% make an attempt. In some communities, the rate is even higher in middle schools.
Suicide risk is higher for those who have experienced violence, including bullying, child abuse, or sexual violence. LGBTQIA+ youth are also at a higher risk, this group seriously contemplates suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. LGB youth are also almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Everyone, especially parents, should learn the warning signs in order to recognize signs of depression, other mental health disorders, and suicide. Early intervention and treatment saves lives. It prevents serious suffering and improves quality of life.
What to Watch Out For
Emotional changes to look out for:
Feelings of sadness, including crying spells for no apparent reason
Frustration or feeling of anger
Feeling hopeless or empty
Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
Frequent thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
Behavioral changes to look out for:
Insomnia or sleeping too much
Changes in appetite — decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain
Use of alcohol or drugs
Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches, which may include frequent visits to the school nurse
Less attention to personal hygiene or appearance
Self-harm — for example, cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing
Making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt
Teens are constantly changing, which is part of being a teenager. They will experience ups and downs throughout the years, so it is important to distinguish normal and abnormal behavior. If you notice any of the symptoms stated above, you should talk with your teen. Help them manage challenging feelings, but if symptoms are present almost daily for more than two weeks, it’s time to reach out to a mental health or medical professional After an evaluation, they can make a proper diagnosis and work with your teen to develop a treatment plan and connect them to support resources.
What Can You Do?
Learn about these 5 action steps: Ask. Keep Them Safe. Be There. Help Them Connect. Follow Up.
Visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website to find resources and talking tips specifically for reaching out to teens.
Make a crisis plan with your teen. We plan ahead for all types of emergencies, but most of us don't think about mental health crisis'.
Get Involved! Attend a Regional Suicide Advisory Board meeting and learn about prevention efforts in our region or attend a QPR training to learn how to handle a crisis. Visit our events page to register. You can also participate in events, like the upcoming American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Community Walk on October 24, 2021. Join our team!
If your teen is talking about suicide, take it seriously and act immediately!
If you're in crisis, contact one of the organizations below.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Crisis Text Line, Text HELLO to 741741
Magellan Health Crisis Hotline, 1-800-327-7451
Action Line, 1-800-HOPE-135 or 211
Kids in Crisis: 203-661-1911
The Trevor Project for LGBTQ Lives: 866-488-7386
If you need immediate assistance, call 911.
Managing daily stress is important. Some things your teen can do to help manage their stress levels:
Exercise, staying active with activities
Keeping a journal to express thoughts and feelings
Connecting with others to build healthy friendships
Ask for help when needed
Although suicide is usually related to depression or other mental illnesses, up to half of people who could benefit from counseling do not seek help. At The Hub CT, we support and coordinate behavioral health initiatives to raise awareness about mental health, suicide prevention, substance misuse, and problem gambling across Fairfield County, Connecticut. On our website, we have a variety of resources for mental health wellness, prevention, treatment, and recovery. Our guides list nonprofit and public-sector services for crisis, mental health and substance use disorders, and support programs. They come with an insert listing all the free peer support options that are also out there! For local resources visit The Hub website, where you will find the treatment guide for southwest, CT. For national help use this treatment locator to find the nearest mental health facility.