Tragedy of suicide

The Tragedy of Suicide: Ways to Spot Signs in At-Risk Youth and How to Get Help

The devastating reality is that suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 19. Suicide can be a preventable tragedy but it’s also very complex. Getting help or seeking counseling or therapy is a key barrier for many who are struggling with thoughts or attempts at taking their own life. But there are highly trained professionals who are experts in easing the pain of those experiencing destructive thoughts.

If you believe you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from anywhere in the United States. You are not alone.

Warning Signs for Suicide

While it’s not always easy to pinpoint, there are ways to spot signs in others who may be at risk for committing suicide.

  • Expressing hopelessness about the future
  • Displaying overwhelming pain or distress
  • Showing a marked change in mood or behavior
  • Withdrawing from friends or family
  • Disinterest in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Showing sudden and intense anger or hostility
  • Extreme changes in sleep patterns
  • Experiencing stressful situations that can serve as triggers, including:
    • Sudden loss
    • Extreme life changes
    • Personal humiliation
    • Trouble at home, in school or with the law

If an individual talks about, writes about or makes plans for suicide, they may be at immediate risk for suicide. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a mental health professional or 9-1-1 right away.

Some Common Factors in At-Risk Populations

While the tragedy of suicide can strike anyone, statistics show that some populations may be more vulnerable than others. There are different factors, or combinations of them, that can increase risk for suicide. Awareness of the following risk factors can help in identifying when there is a need to reach out for help or when someone may need extra support, supervision or an ear to listen.

Depression, Anxiety or Another Mental Disorder

Those experiencing mental health conditions or disorders are at an increased risk for suicide. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that one out of every five teens experience depression at some point during their adolescence and therefore recommends that children be screened for depression at routine checkups.

Child Abuse and Neglect

Those who have experienced child abuse and neglect are at a greater risk for committing suicide. This can include physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Alcohol or Drug Abuse

Youth who partake in excessive alcohol or drug usage may be at a heightened risk for committing suicide. In fact, substance use is a factor in roughly one out of every three youth suicides. Access to drugs or alcohol can give teenagers an easy way to unintentionally overdose.


Individuals who cut or burn themselves or self-destruct in another way are at a greater suicide risk. They often engage in this behavior to relieve intense feelings and emotions such as pain or anger. This is a sign that they need to develop alternate ways to deal with these emotions.

Risky Behaviors

When individuals participate in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, petty theft or vandalism, this may indicate that deeper emotional or social problems exist. It can be especially worrisome if these behaviors emerge suddenly.


Children who are bullied or who bully others are at a higher risk of suicidal ideation and action. This includes cyberbullying. Those who are cyberbullied are three times more likely than peers to have suicidal thoughts.

Family History or Previous Attempts

When a family member commits suicide, it increases the risk of suicide among others within the family unit. The same is true for ongoing family conflicts, lack of family connectedness and the death of a family member.

Creating a Suicide Safety Plan

A suicide safety plan is a written set of instructions for those who are experiencing thoughts of suicide to follow, completing the steps they’ve laid out until they feel safe. This customized plan can be used before or during a suicidal crisis. The plan should be clear and concise and written by the individual experiencing destructive thoughts. It’s one method people can use to cope with the overwhelming emotional pain until the feelings pass and circumstances change for the better. Learn how to create a suicide safety plan.

There is Help and Hope for Suicide Prevention

Mental health professionals are highly trained to ease the pain that comes with suicidal ideation. SAFY provides behavioral health services for at-risk children experiencing mental challenges. Our Youth Drop-In Center offers access to counseling and supportive services for youth ages 12 to 17 who have been victims of crime and our Lima Behavioral Health Center offers open access to mental health counseling services for individuals and families seeking immediate treatment. Call our referral line at 1-866-270-2201 for more information.

Always remember, you matter.

Suicide Prevention Resources

MY3 App – lets you stay connected when you are having thoughts about suicide

Patient Safety Plan Template

The FACTS of Suicide

How to Talk to a Child About a Suicide Attempt in Your Family

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