Suicide is a serious public health concern that, according to a report published recently by The National Center for Health Statistics, has grown alarmingly in the past 15 years including among youth. It is important for everyone to recognize the warning signs of suicide risk.

A Parents’ Guide to Suicide Prevention: How to Support Your High School or College Student


Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds and the third leading cause of death for 10-14 year olds.


Leading suicide prevention organizations recently published empirically supported suicide warning signs:

Talking about or making a plan for suicide

Expressing hopelessness about the future

Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress

Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:

  • Withdrawal from or changes in social connections/situations
  • Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
  • Anger or hostility that seems out of character or context
  • Recent increased agitation or irritability

What to do if you believe your child is at risk for attempting suicide:

You and/or your child can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-272-TALK (8255) or you can go to the nearest emergency room if you feel it is safe to transport your child.

If your child has already initiated a suicide attempt or you feel there is imminent danger, call 911.

If you're uncertain about your child's safety, your pediatrician and/or school mental health professional may be quite helpful. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline can also help you decide what to do.


The Society for Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS) has many resources for parents greatly expanding on the information contained here:

SPTS Parents

Talking to your kid about suicide

FAQ about Referrals to Mental Health Services

When a Child's Friend Attempts Suicide

When a Child's Friend Dies by Suicide


FAQ for Parents

Q: Who considers suicide?

A: In general, people who are depressed or having trouble coping with their feelings may consider suicide if they don't have other coping skills. People of all ages, races, faiths, and cultures die by suicide, as do individuals from all walks of life and income levels.


Q: Can a teen really be suicidal? They haven't lived long enough to know what real problems are!

A: In part, that is exactly the problem. Teens are expected to go to school full-time, participate in school activities, work twenty to twenty-five hours a week in their "part-time job," and manage to get their chores and homework done on the side. In addition, many teens don't get enough sleep. Many have not yet developed the skills needed to deal with these stresses. A loss that seems minor to an adult can feel life-threatening to a teen.


Q: Why do people choose to die by suicide?

A: Suicidal behavior is one of the most complicated human behaviors. Many things can contribute to a suicide such as varying degrees of outside stressors, internal conflict, and neurobiological dysfunction. There is never a single cause. The reasons behind suicide often remain a mystery.


Q: Won't people think I am a bad parent if my teen is suicidal?

A: Some people may be quick to judge and not understand that given a certain set of circumstances any of us could feel suicidal. It is more likely that people will think you are a loving and caring parent if you are helping to keep your teen alive. No parent can protect their children from all the many stress in the world.


Q: My teenager listens to horrible music. I'm worried that the violent lyrics will make him kill himself.

A: While you may not like your teen's choice in music, it is unlikely to make him kill himself if that was not already an issue. In fact, for most teens, even violent music, may actually allow them to vent some of their anger and frustration and help them to feel better. However, there are situations where a teenager who is already feeling depressed or feeling alienated may choose a certain type of music that can make those feelings stronger. Discuss your concerns with your teen and make a deal that if he feels like hurting or killing himself that he will talk to you.


The above Q&A was adapted from Lifelines; A Suicide Prevention Program developed by Maureen Underwood, L.C.S.W. and John Kalafat, Ph.D.