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Suicide Concerns


  • Concerns about suicide thoughts, threats, plans or attempts
  • Concerns about risk for suicide

Suicide in the US

  • Suicide attempts, threats or plans must always be taken very seriously. Thoughts or talk about killing or hurting oneself also need evaluation on a timely basis. So do comments about "no reason to live." Emergency rooms are often your best resource.
  • Suicide is the second most common cause of death in teens. Motor vehicle accidents are number one.
  • About 7% of teens attempt suicide.
  • Suicide risk starts at age 10, upon starting middle school.
  • These rates have gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Suicides are a mental health crisis in the US.

Risk Factors for Suicide Completion (Death)

Suicide deaths in the 15 to 24 age group are about 5,000 per year in the US. While deaths are rare, children with the following are at greatest risk:

  • Specific, thought out plan for committing suicide
  • Access to lethal methods, such as a loaded firearm or dangerous medications;
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of completed suicide
  • Prior diagnosis of psychiatric illness
  • Heavy use of alcohol or drugs
  • Serious or chronic medical disease or disability
  • Child maltreatment, especially sexual abuse
  • Impulsive, risk-taking behavior
  • Feeling helpless or worthless

Self-Harm or Cutting Behavior

  • Self-harm is hurting the body on purpose, such as cutting or burning the skin. It is usually superficial, only injuring the skin.
  • It occurs in up to 20% of teens.
  • Self-harm is a way to relieve emotional pain or stress.
  • Self-harm is not meant to be a suicide attempt.
  • Therapy can help your teen find better ways to cope with painful feelings.

When To Call

Call 911 Now

  • Attempted suicide within last 24 hours
  • Acts or talks confused
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Go to ER Now

  • Attempted suicide within the last week
  • Making threats of suicide
  • Has a suicide plan (such as drugs or weapon)
  • Drug or alcohol use is suspected and has symptoms now
  • Psych hospital needed in the past for similar symptoms

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Has thoughts of suicide or killing self (or call 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline)
  • Has thoughts of seriously harming self (or call 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline)
  • Has themes of death in drawings or writings (or call 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline)
  • You think your child needs to be seen (or call 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline)

Self Care at Home

  • Suicide and depression resources - request for information only

Care Advice

Suicide Hotlines and Helplines:

  • Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: for urgent concerns about suicide or substance use crisis, call 988. This national 24/7 crisis line was established in 2022.
  • For non-urgent concerns, call your local mental health resource.
  • If you don't have their number, call National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).
  • The NAMI Helpline is an information and referral source for finding local mental health programs. The national toll-free phone number: 1-800-950-6264. NAMI is not a 24/7 crisis line.

Teens with Suicidal Thoughts: Home Safety Plan

  • Check your home for anything your teen might use to hurt themself.
  • Lock away any firearms. Be sure they are unloaded. Better yet, store them with a relative or friend. Reason: firearms cause most suicidal deaths in North America.
  • Make sure their child doesn't have access to medicines or alcohol.
  • For older teen, consider removing driving privilege and car keys.


Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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