Tips About Suicidal Youth

This article can be found at

Suicidal Youth and Their Families: Overcoming Barriers to Receiving Help

Nadine Kaslow, PhD, 2013 President-Elect, American Psychological Association

Setting the Stage Top Takeaways

1. Be knowledgeable about the truths that dispel the common myths about teen suicide. • It is the third-leading cause of death for 10-24 year olds. • More than one in every 10 high school students have attempted suicide. • Almost 20 percent of high school students think about suicide. • Girls think about and attempt suicide more than boys, but boys die by suicide about four times as often as girls. • Talk to your child to see if they are thinking about suicide. Doing so will not make them harm or kill themselves. • Unfortunately, there are not full-proof warning signs that make it clear if someone is going to kill him or herself. • Some youth think about suicide long and hard before ending their life, but others are impulsive in their decision to take their own life.

2. Be aware of the risk factors for suicide.

3. Pay attention to resilience or protective factors.

4. Know what to say to your child.

5. Know what to do to help prevent suicidal behavior in your child. Prioritize interacting with them in positive ways. Increase their involvement in positive experiences. Monitor appropriately your child’s whereabouts and communications (i.e., texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) with the goal of keeping them safe. Get involved and become aware of your child’s friends and communicate regularly with other parents in your community. Limit your children’s access to guns, knives, alcohol, prescription pills and illegal drugs. Communicate regularly with your child’s school to ensure optimal safety and care for your child in the school setting. Be safe not sorry — take appropriate action when needed to protect your child. Recognize these warning signs and take them seriously- not as a cry for attention. Take action when you have a feeling that something is not right. Notice warning signs in your child, including worsening of these signs. Be aware of your child’s risk factors for suicide. Talk with your child first about your concerns, including asking him or her directly about suicidal thoughts, the value of therapy and possibly medication. Address your concerns with other important adults in your child’s life. Discuss your concerns with your child’s health care provider to get appropriate mental health referrals. Talk with people in the school who can provide support and guidance for your child and who may be able to assist with referrals. Be willing to participate in therapy with your child. Call 911 or take your child to a hospital in cases of an emergency. Find a mental health provider that has experience with suicidal youth. Select a mental health provider with whom your child feels comfortable and with whom you feel comfortable. Work with schools to ensure that educational suicide prevention programs are offered. Collaborate with schools on the development of peer gatekeeper programs that help identify at-risk peers and encourage them to seek help. Work with local sections of national suicide prevention organizations to have optimal suicide prevention programming in your community. Tell your children/teenagers that if a friend says that they are going to kill themselves, they should inform a trusted adult (i.e., parent, school nurse, or guidance counselor) to get professional help. Remind your child that they should not have to decide if their friend’s threat is credible. Remind them not to keep it a secret. Remember at your time of sorrow and sadness, you are not alone. Reach out to family, friends, and other community members. Engage with support groups, locally and nationally (including online communities). Honor your loved one and remember how they lived. Volunteer to help other survivors. Participate in community activities to prevent suicide. American Psychological Association (APA) (/topics/suicide/index.aspx)

6. Recognize when you need to seek professional help for your child. • Talking about suicide or wishing they were dead • Planning for suicide • Making final arrangements (e.g., writing a suicide note, preparing final instructions, giving away prized possessions) • Being preoccupied with death • Drastic changes in habits (e.g., sleep, eating, hygiene) • Changes in social functioning (social isolation, peer conflict, bullying) • Changes in educational functioning (dropping grades, skipping school, conflicts with teachers)

7. How to get help for your suicidal child

8. Partner with schools and the community to prevent suicide.

9. Have a plan for helping your child if he/she is worried about a suicidal friend.

10. Get support if you lose a child to suicide. Learn More For more information on suicide in children and adolescents, visit: APA “Find a Psychologist” tool ( National Association of School Psychologists ( American Association of Suicidology ( American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ( Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) ( Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide ( Youth Suicide Prevention Program (YSPP) ( Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Teen Suicide

Prevention ( (PDF, 69KB) The Trevor Project (National organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth): Call (866) 488-7386 or visit the website ( . Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: For immediate help, call (800) 273-TALK (8255) or visit the website ( .