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Teen Health

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Preventing Teen 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.

A mental health professional (such as a psychologist or psychiatrist) diagnoses and treats depression. Depression is diagnosed when someone has at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling down, depressed or sad most of the day; feeling irritable and angry
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain; a decrease or increase in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Feeling very nervous and hyper; feeling sluggish
  • Fatigue or no energy
  • Feeling worthless or unnecessarily guilty
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or indecisiveness
  • Either recurrent thoughts of death without a specific plan or a suicide attempt, or a specific plan for committing suicide

If you feel a sense of hopelessness, talk to your parents or guardians. They can make you an appointment with a mental health professional for a diagnosis and proper treatment, possibly including medications and/or therapy.

Restrict Access to Suicide Methods

One key protective factor of suicide is to restrict access to the methods for committing it. It's vital for friends and family members of someone who is at risk of suicide to understand the methods commonly used.

The most common method of successful suicide among young adults is firearms. If your parents, family members, or adult friends own guns, they should take careful measures -- especially gun trigger locks and locked cabinets -- to ensure that someone with risk factors for suicide cannot get to the weapon. Such safety precautions also prevent accidental misuse by children.

Other common methods of suicide are hanging, drowning, cutting arteries, overdosing on medications or illegal drugs, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Friends and family of someone with suicide risk factors should take all available steps to restrict that person's access to things like knives, rope, pipes, and medication.

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