Youth Suicide Prevention
Talking about suicide is OK
One of the biggest myths about suicide is that talking about suicide may give someone the idea to commit suicide. This is false. In fact, talking about suicide allows an individual to feel comfortable talking about it. So, let’s talk about youth and how the community can help prevent suicide.
Keep these things in mind when talking to youth about suicide:
1. Youth attempt suicide or commit suicide due to:
• Overwhelming thoughts of hopelessness
• Trying to escape a situation that feels too difficult
• Feelings of rejection, guilt, anger, or sadness
2. Youth/teens are often dealing with problems that may seem small/insignificant to adults
but are huge and very real to them.
3. Suicide is about ending pain for youth/teens.
Talk: They could be talking about killing themselves, having no reason to live, feeling trapped, being a burden, or feeling hopeless. Listen to what a youth is saying.
Behavior: Consider if a youth has started isolating themselves, withdrawing from activities they normally enjoy (for youth that could mean not spending time with friends, texting friends, or being on social media regularly), changing school work/attendance, or acting with reckless behavior (that could include alcohol, or drugs. Watch a youth’s behavior.
Mood: Has there been a change in a youth’s mood? Watch to see if a youth has depression, anxiety, irritability, shame/humiliation, anger outbursts, or even a relief/sudden improvement of their mood.
Health factors will include current mental health conditions and/or serious physical health conditions including chronic pain or a change in health conditions/serious injury.
Historical/other factors would be situations where there have been previous suicide attempts, a family history of suicide or some type of abuse, and/or neglect or trauma that occurred during childhood.
Environmental factors that may affect a youth who is thinking about suicide include:
Prolonged stress (harassment, bullying, cyberbullying, relationship problems, sextortion, etc.)
Stressful life events (rejection, break-up, divorce of parents, death/loss of a loved one, etc.)
Exposure to another person’s suicide
Sensationalized accounts of suicide including media accounts, social media accounts, movies, TV shows (13 Reasons Why), books, or even discussion among friends
Having access to lethal means (firearms, medication, drugs, etc.)
When youth know they can talk to parents/guardians, friends, and family, they feel more comfortable opening up about their stressors and feelings.
Helping youth learn coping skills, problem solving skills, conflict resolution, and confidence in themselves will help them be more equipped to deal with the challenges life brings.
Knowing they have community and school support can help youth realize they are not alone and have others they can turn to.
If you suspect someone may be suicidal, don’t be afraid to ask. Remember, talking about suicide is OK. Be yourself when talking to them and have empathy. Take the time to listen, and be supportive and understanding. Don’t fear offering hope without negating feelings. Take the person seriously. Finally, know your limitations on how you can help and assist them in locating professional help. Start the conversation today!