Youth and Suicide Prevention

Earlier this week I shared about suicide in the United States in the post Connect. Communicate. Care. Today, I want to address issues with suicide and youth.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-24 and third leading cause for those ages 10-14. We can best prevent suicide in youth through this year’s theme “Connect. Communicate. Care.” There has been much work on this issue recently, but there’s still work to be done. We can continue reducing youth suicide rates by:

  • Connecting by providing opportunities for social connection
  • Providing space for open communication and allowing them to communicate at their own pace
  • Sharing that you care by fostering trust and providing access to resources

If you don’t feel comfortable having a conversation with a young person, a useful resource is the You Matter blog, an effort of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The You Matter blog is written by youth age 13-24 who serve as a peer resource. They share their experiences and affirm that no regardless of what someone is experiencing, they matter.

Another way to prevent youth suicide is knowing the warning signs, how to respond, and what resources are available to help.

Warning Signs
  • Talking about or making plans for suicide
  • Expressing hopelessness about the future
  • Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress
  • Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:
    • Withdrawal from or changing social connections/situations
    • Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
    • Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
    • Recent increased agitation or irritability
How to Respond

If you notice any of these warning signs in anyone, you can help!

  • Ask if they are okay or if they are having thoughts of suicide
  • Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior
  • Listen attentively and non-judgmentally
  • Reflect what they share and let them know they have been heard
  • Tell them they are not alone
  • Let them know there are treatments available that can help
  • If you are or they are concerned, guide them to additional professional help

Remember, if anyone is harming themselves now or has just harmed themselves, call 911 or take them to an emergency room immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7/365 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Lindsey Stillwell, LMSW