Frequently Asked Questions

How common is suicide in children and adolescents?

Over 5,200 young people commit suicide each year. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people 10 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries. For each completed suicide, there are several thousand attempts. Surveys of high school students indicate that 17.2% of high schoolers think about suicide each year, and by the end of high school, at least 7.4% of all children have actually made at least one suicide attempt. Although girls are twice as likely to attempt suicide, boys actually account for almost 80% of all suicide related deaths.

What causes suicide in children and adolescents?

Thoughts about suicide and suicide attempts are often most often associated with depression. In addition to depression, other risk factors include:

  • family history of suicide attempts
  • exposure to violence
  • impulsivity
  • aggressive or disruptive behavior
  • access to firearms
  • substance abuse
  • bullying
  • feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • acute loss or rejection

What are the warning signs associated with child and adolescent suicide?

Among both children and adolescents, the warning signs of suicide can include:

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Frequent or pervasive sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities
  • Frequent complaints about physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Decline in the quality of schoolwork
  • Preoccupation with death and dying

Among teenagers, the warning signs of suicide can also include:

  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Violent actions, rebellious behavior or running away
  • Unusual neglect of personal appearance
  • Marked personality change
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

Young people who are thinking about suicide may also stop planning for or talking about the future. They may begin to give away important possessions. They may also make overtly suicidal statements or comments such as, "I wish I was dead," or "I won't be a problem for you much longer."

Any child or adolescent with suicidal thoughts, plans or warning signs should be evaluated immediately by a trained and qualified mental health professional.

What should I do if my child or adolescent talks about suicide?

If a child or adolescent says, "I want to kill myself" or "I'm going to commit suicide" always take the statement seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. People often feel uncomfortable talking about suicide. However, asking the child or adolescent whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than putting thoughts in the child's head, such a question will provide assurance that you care and will give the young person the chance to talk about his or her problems.