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Teen Suicide First Aid

Sad looking teen boy on a bridge with depression thinking about suicide  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 12 individuals between the ages of 10 and 24 commit suicide every day in the United States. Suicidal behavior in adolescence is a growing concern and teen suicide first aid needs to be seriously addressed in an attempt to help young people. Being able to recognize teenage suicidal tendencies and warning signs is vital, as is knowing how to approach and deal with an individual struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Learning about teen suicide first aid provides people with information on the many warning signs that a loved one may exhibit if they are at risk for suicide, as well as the specific steps to intervene and help save their life. More specifically, it provides information and instructions on how to:

  • Identify risk factors
  • Clearly and directly ask teens about suicide intentions or plans, thereby opening a dialogue and letting them know that you are there for them
  • Actively listen without any judgment, and be supportive
  • Seek help while remaining with the individual in need
  • Call 911, take the individual to the emergency room or contact a suicide crisis hotline
  • Get support from other friends and family members and make them aware of the severity of the situation
  • Contact any mental health professionals that the teen may be seeing and make them aware of the situation

In addition, teen mental health first aid provides valuable ways to help a young person who is experiencing mental health or addiction issues, which are two of the leading causes of suicide in this age bracket.

Teen Suicide Facts

Youth suicide ideation, attempts, and execution are on the rise. According to CDC teen suicide statistics, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 through 19. Suffocation and firearms are the primary methods of suicide in this age group.

In 2017, suicide rates among teens and young adults included 517 suicidal deaths in children ages 10 to 14 and 6,252 suicidal deaths in the 15 to 24 age group.

Suicide is responsible for more deaths in teens and young adults than heart disease, stroke, cancer, AIDS, pneumonia, influenza, birth defects, and chronic lung disease. Approximately 1 in 100,000 children, ages 10 to 14,  and approximately 7 in 100,000 teens, ages 15 to 19, die by suicide each year.

Results from the 2017 Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that between 2016 and 2017, 17.2% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide and 7.4% actually did attempt suicide. It was also noted that females were twice as likely as males to report seriously considering suicide, attempting suicide and requiring medical attention for an attempt.

It is worth noting that four out of five teens who have attempted suicide have demonstrated clear warning signs. This shows how extremely important it is for parents and families to educate themselves on teen suicide warning signs.

Substance Abuse and Suicide

There is a strong correlation between substance abuse and suicide rates across all age groups.  According to research by the CDC, substance abuse including drugs and alcohol are second only to mood disorders and depression as being the most frequent risk factors in suicidal behavior. The resulting effects of substance abuse can play a huge role in suicidal thoughts or behavior.  Not only does alcohol and drugs generally result in a loss of inhibition and a higher demonstration of risky behavior, but it can also alter a teen’s brain chemistry over time, causing depression and mood disorders. All of these effects combined can lead to suicidal ideation and tendencies.

Teen Suicide Warning Signs

Teens may exhibit several signs when having suicidal thoughts, including:

  • Talking about wanting to end their life
  • Online searches for information on how to kill themselves
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Talk of feeling useless, hopeless or trapped
  • Talk of being in unbearable pain
  • Excessive sleep or not enough sleep
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Isolating oneself or pulling away from others
  • Random mood swings including depression and rage
  • Displaying self-destructive or risky behavior
  • A decline in school performance and lack of interest in normal activities

How to Help a Teenager with Suicidal Thoughts

Many teen suicides can be prevented if the warning signs are detected and appropriate intervention is conducted. So, the first step to protecting teens is to know the signs. Once teen suicide warning signs are recognized, there are several ways to address the issue and help.

Upon recognition of any warning signs, talk to the teen immediately and offer help, support and compassion. Explain your concern and listen to them, ask them how they have been feeling and why they have been feeling that way. Keep any opinions or judgment to yourself — just be caring and listen.

Don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide” when talking to your teen. Let them know you recognize where their head is at. Tiptoeing around the matter will end up making them feel unheard and more alone. Let them know that you are there for them 110% and you can work together with them to make things better. Directly ask the teen if they have a plan of action for committing suicide. If they answer that they do, seek professional help immediately. In the meantime, remove all items that could be used as a means to commit suicide, such as lethal weapons, pills or drugs, and any dangerous household items such as knives, razors, and ropes.

If you feel the situation is severe and you are unsure of how to handle it, take your teen to the hospital emergency room. The other option would be to contact your teen’s doctor and seek guidance on how to proceed. Teens in this situation usually need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist that is experienced in teen suicide prevention.

It is important to know that teens who are on medication for teenage anxiety and depression are at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts, especially in the first few weeks after starting the meds or when the prescribed dose is changed.

Additional Teen Suicide First Aid Resources

The are several teen suicide prevention resources and teen mental health awareness resources:

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available. The first step is communication, opening a dialogue with your loved one, showing support and love and letting them know they are not alone.

Next Generation Village provides complete care for teens who may be susceptible to suicidal behavior due to co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. For more information on how we can help, contact us today.

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