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Preventing Teen Suicide

Many young people face high levels of stress and confusion, along with family problems. When you throw in raging hormones, it sometimes seems more than a teen can handle. Perhaps it's not surprising that teen suicide is increasingly common.

In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 24, with about 4,400 lives lost each year. Males comprise 84% of all suicides.   

However, attempted suicides greatly outnumber suicides. Because males often choose more violent methods in their attempts, they are often more successful. But females may attempt suicide more often than males. In 2009, 6.3% of high school students (grades 9-12) attempted suicide. Of those, 8.1% were female, 4.6% were male.

If you have ever seriously contemplated suicide -- meaning doing some serious planning, not just feeling very down -- it's important to take this very seriously. Contact a trusted adult or a mental health professional immediately.

It's also important to know the suicide risk factors, so you can help yourself, a friend, or a family member if suicide ever becomes an issue.

What Are Teen Suicide Risk Factors?

Risk factors are habits or histories that put someone at greater likelihood of having a problem. Some of the risk factors for suicide may be inherited, such as a family history of suicide. Others, like physical illness, may also be out of your control. But if you can recognize the risk factors for suicide early and act to change the ones you can control, you may save your life -- or that of a close friend or family member.

Read the suicide risk factors below and check the ones you can control. (For instance, you can talk to a mental health professional for ways to deal with lack of social support, feelings of hopelessness, or mood disorders like depression.)

It's important to take these risk factors for suicide very seriously:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s).
  • Psychological and mental disorders, especially depression and other mood disorders, schizophrenia, and social anxiety.
  • Substance abuse and/or alcohol disorders.
  • History of abuse or mistreatment.
  • Family history of suicide.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Physical illness.
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies.
  • Financial or social loss.
  • Relationship loss.
  • Isolation or lack of social support.
  • Easy access to methods/means of suicide.
  • Exposure to others who have committed suicide.

What Are Suicide Protective Factors?

Suicide protective factors are things that reduce the potential for suicidal behavior. They include:

  • Psychological and clinical care for physical, mental, and substance abuse disorders.
  • Restricted or limited access to methods/means of suicide.
  • Family and community support.
  • Support from medical and health care personnel.
  • Developing problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.
  • Religious and cultural belief systems that discourage suicide.

Is Depression Linked to Suicide?

If you want to prevent suicide, it's important to understand depression. Depression is often used to describe general feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and hopelessness. When teens feel sad or low, they often say they are depressed. While most of us feel sad or low sometimes, feelings of depression are longer lasting and often more serious.

WebMD Medical Reference

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