Teen suicide: What parents need to know

Teen suicide is preventable. Know the risk factors, the warning signs and the steps you can take to protect your teen.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Is your teen at risk of suicide? While no teen is immune, there are factors that can make some adolescents more vulnerable than others. Understand how to tell if your teen might be suicidal and where to turn for help and treatment.

What makes teens vulnerable to suicide?

Many teens who attempt or die by suicide have a mental health condition. As a result, they have trouble coping with the stress of being a teen, such as dealing with rejection, failure, breakups and family turmoil. They might also be unable to see that they can turn their lives around — and that suicide is a permanent response, not a solution, to a temporary problem.

What are the risk factors for teen suicide?

A teen might feel suicidal due to certain life circumstances such as:

  • Having a psychiatric disorder, including depression
  • Loss of or conflict with close friends or family members
  • History of physical or sexual abuse or exposure to violence
  • Problems with alcohol or drugs
  • Physical or medical issues, for example, becoming pregnant or having a sexually transmitted infection
  • Being the victim of bullying
  • Being uncertain of sexual orientation
  • Exposure to the suicide of a family member or friend
  • Begin adopted
  • Family history of mood disorder or suicidal behavior

What role do antidepressants play?

Most antidepressants are generally safe, but the Food and Drug Administration requires that all antidepressants carry black box warnings, the strictest warnings for prescriptions. The warnings call attention to the fact that children, teenagers and young adults under 25 might have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants, especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed.

Keep in mind that antidepressants are more likely to reduce suicide risk in the long run by improving mood.

April 19, 2016 See more In-depth