Teen Suicide

Teen suicide has been a very serious problem for many years in the US. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, suicide in teens (and adults) has seen a large rise. 

Suicide is now the third leading cause of death in teens. Guns are reported to be used in more than half of those deaths. 

The increased use of social media and substance abuse during this time has worsened  suicide attempts in teens.

What Risk Factors lead to suicide in teens?

Changes in the family including parental separation, divorce, moving to a new area

Conflict with friends and loss of friendships  

Feelings of isolation and being bullied on-line

School failure

Drug/Alcohol Abuse and Intoxication 

Other losses 

Unresolved mental health issues and disorders

Teens most at risk have:

A history of  Alcohol and/or Drug abuse and intoxication

Pre-existing emotional disorders including Depression, Bipolar Illness, Psychosis, Autism, Hallucinations, and ADHD

A history of impulsive behaviors

A history of being bullied

A history of recent losses 

A history of suicide in their family or recent suicide attempts by family or peers

A family history of of violence, physical and/or emotional abuse

A history of past suicide attempts

Recent incarceration

The availability of guns and/or medications/drugs in the home

A lack of support in their life

Warning Signs can include:

A teen says they ‘want to die” or that they are going to kill themselves

A teen hints that they “may be gone soon”

A teen gives away their favorite things or throw away belongings

A teen who was depressed suddenly looks cheerful

A teen expresses strange thoughts, or tells someone they are hearing voices

A teen writes a suicide note or story that includes suicide

A teen expresses feelings of hopelessness about the future

A teen who cuts or scratches themselves 

What to do?

Suicide threats or attempts should always be taken seriously. They are a call for help.

Any teen who attempts suicide needs an immediate evaluation to rule out any physical or mental condition which needs attention. 

A psychiatric assessment is needed to ascertain the teen’s diagnosis and formulate a plan of care which may include hospitalization, intensive therapy, alcohol/drug detoxification, and the prescription of medication(s) to treat any underlying mental health or physical issues.

Treatment should include the family.

It will be important for the family to keep guns and medicine locked away, and recognize the warning signs of depression including feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loneliness, failing grades, loss of interest in activities, preoccupation with suicide in statements or writings, and previous suicide gestures or self-harm.

Address the teens’s academic needs or social issues (bullying) with the school

Limit and supervise the teen’s use of social media

In crisis, he teens can call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources. 

Feel free to contact me with any questions at : [email protected]

Robert A. Lowenstein MD