Suicide Ideation in Teenagers – How to Identify It? – What to Do About It?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on May 3, 2017 that teen suicides are the second leading cause of death among adolescents between the ages of 15-19 years of age; second only to accidents!

Teen suicides have become a national epidemic, and there are not enough people talking about and trying to do something about it.

If you work with teenagers on a regular basis, chances are you have more than likely interacted with a youth who has either contemplated or attempted suicide.

What are the warning signs?

What should you do if you interact with a youth who displays warning signs of suicide ideation?

Let’s take a closer look…

Warning signs that a teenager may be contemplating suicide include:
• Talking about suicide or death in general, even in a joking way
• Talking about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
• Talking about “going away”
• Withdrawal from friends and family members
• Difficulty in getting along with others
• Changes in the quality of schoolwork or lower grades
• Unusual gift-giving or giving away own possessions
• Appearing bored or distracted all the time
• Writing or drawing pictures about death
• Running away from home
• Dramatic personality changes
• Changes in appearance (for the worse)
• Having no desire to take part in favorite activities
• Having trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
• Experiencing changes in eating or sleeping habits
• Engaging in self-destructive behavior
– Drinking alcohol, taking drugs, cutting, or driving too fast, for example
• Online social media activity between the hours of 1 and 5am
– Suggesting they probably have a disrupted sleep schedule, which can put someone at risk for suicide
• Having a history of suicide attempts

Sometimes, a specific event, stress, or crisis — like a relationship breaking up or a death in the family — can trigger suicidal behavior in someone who is already feeling depressed and showing the warning signs listed above.

What You Can Do

• If a youth you interact with is showing any warning signs that they may be contemplating suicide don’t wait to see if he or she starts to feel better! Talk about it! In most cases a person who is considering suicide is willing to discuss their feelings if someone approaches them out of sincere concern.
• Don’t think that by asking a youth if they have been thinking about suicide or hurting themselves that you are planting the idea of suicide. This is not true, it’s always appropriate, and necessary, that you ask!
• This must be a nonjudgmental zone!
• Offer reassurance that you’re there for them and you care.
• Just talking about it may help the person to feel less alone, less isolated, and more cared about and understood – the opposite of what may have led them to suicidal thoughts to begin with.
Get Help!
• If you believe that the youth is in immediate danger of self-harm, stay close and get help for them right away by calling 911!


Compiled by Cynthia “CeCe” O’Neal
May 26, 2018