Teen Suicide: Risk Factors & How to Help

The tragedy of a teen dying because of overwhelming hopelessness is devastating. Family and peers are left wondering if they could have done something to stop them from taking their own life.

Learning more about what leads a teen to suicide may prevent further tragedies. Even though suicide is not always preventable, be informed and take action if a troubled teenager needs support.

Risk Factors for Teen Suicide

Diagnosing a suicidal teen is complex. Risk factors can arise or be more prevalent at different times depending on the individual:

  • Existing mental health or substance use disorder — depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Impulsive behaviors and tendencies
  • Romantic breakups
  • Peer or social conflict
  • Family history of suicide
  • Exposure to suicidal behaviors of others
  • Prior suicide attempt(s)

Suicide Warning Signs

Know the signs of suicidal thoughts or symptoms of depression:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping behaviors
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Neglect of personal appearance
  • Lack of response to praise
  • Irritability
  • Sadness or crying spells
  • Posts on social media suggesting feelings of isolation or depression
  • Talking about or indicating plans to commit suicide or self-harm

How to Support Teens

  • Keep an open door. Emphasize that you are always available to talk and that they can trust you. Also, tell them if their peers exhibit suicidal behavior they can come to you as a trusted adult.
  • Empathize, don’t criticize. Tell them that you understand and what they are going through is very difficult. Don’t say, “You have nothing to be sad about,” or “You’re overreacting.” Instead ask, “What do you need?”
  • Don’t minimize their feelings. Avoid phrases like, “Just be positive,” or, “Keep going. You’ve got this.” Instead say, “How can I support you?”

What to Do in Crisis

If your teen is in imminent danger due to a suicide threat or attempt, call 911.

There are also several free phone and text resources for immediate help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.8255) offers 24/7 confidential support to those in need. The Trevor Project is a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth. The organization and its trained professionals offer several immediate support resources, including a 24/7 crisis and suicide hotline (866.488.7386) and support via text messaging (text START to 678678).

Seek Ongoing Help

Threats of suicide reflect feelings of desperation and hopelessness. Problems are viewed as insurmountable, intolerable and unsolvable. Take any suicidal comment as a cry for help.

Remember, evidence-based treatments work, and Edgewood is here to help. Reach out via the link below for an immediate appointment. We’ll match your teen to a therapist that specializes in suicidal ideation and begin a treatment plan that gets results.