• They may begin to isolate themselves, pulling away from friends or family
  • They may no longer participate in what was their favorite things or activities
  • They may have recently developed trouble thinking clearly
  • They may have changes in their personality (darker, more anxious, or non-caring)
  • They may be experiencing changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • They may talk about suicide or death in general
  • They may express feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • They may exhibit self-destructive behavior (substance abuse, dangerous driving, recklessness, excessive risk taking)
  • They may have changes in their personal hygiene and appearance
  • They may complain about anxiety-related physical problems (stomachaches, headaches, hives, fatigue, blurred vision)
  • They may have difficulty accepting praise or rewards.

If you see any of these signs in your teen, talk to them about your concerns and seek professional help from a physician or a qualified mental health professional. With the support of family and appropriate treatment, teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to more healthy thinking.

If you ever hear your teen say, "I'm going to kill myself," or "I'm going to commit suicide," always take such statements seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. Don't walk away. Don't wait.  Get them to a hospital immediately, even if they don't want to go or say they were just fooling with you. 

Hospitalization is needed whenever a teen is a danger to himself.  Extreme cutting, bizarre behavior, extreme depression, suicidal thoughts, or excessive drug or alcohol use coupled with emotional issues are just a few of the symptoms that might warrant hospitalization. A parent shouldn't hesitate to hospitalize their child if they fear for their life. It's better to be safe than sorry.

It's also important to be proactive in regard to making sure that the main tools of committing suicide are not readily available to a suicidal teen.  For boys, lock up guns in the house so they are not accessible.  For girls, monitor razor blades and make sure drugs like sleeping pills and pain killers are not accessible in your house. You may need to regularly go through her dresser, purse, backpack and closet to make sure she isn't storing any herself that she's bought or gotten from friends. And when a suicidal girl is taking a bath, knock on the door periodically to get a response.

Be Sure to Talk About It

If you see mild warning signs, asking your teen if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Such questions filled with love and concern will provide assurance that you care and will give them the chance to talk about their problems. Get them to commit to you that if they ever do have those thoughts, they'll let you or someone else know.  If your teen doesn't feel comfortable talking with you, suggest a more neutral person, such as another relative, a counselor, a pastor, a coach, or your child's doctor.

It's important to keep the lines of communication open and express your concern, support, and love. If your teen confides in you their loss of hope or control of their life, show that you take those concerns seriously. It's important not to minimize, mock or discount what your teen is going through, as this can increase his or her sense of hopelessness.

Depression Can Lead to Suicide

Each year, thousands of at-risk teens are diagnosed with clinical depression. Most of the signs of depression are the same as suicide warning signs, so depression needs your attention.  If left untreated or ignored, it can be a devastating illness for the teen and their family and it can lead to suicide.