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Suicide Prevention for Adolescents
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What do I need to know about suicide prevention?
Adolescence (ages 13 to 17) can be a difficult time. You are making a transition from childhood to adulthood. You may be feeling confused, stressed, or pressured to succeed or to be like your friends. You may have self-doubts, or you may not feel supported by others in your life. You may see suicide as the only way to escape emotional or physical pain and suffering. Help is available from people who care about you, and from professionals trained in suicide prevention. Prevention includes everything you and others can do to stop you from taking your life.
What should I do if I am considering suicide?
Resources are available to help you. The following are some things you can do:
- Contact a suicide prevention organization:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
- Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)
- For a list of international numbers: https://save.org/find-help/international-resources/
- Contact a parent, therapist, or healthcare provider. Tell the person about your thoughts.
- Keep medicines, weapons, and alcohol out of your home.
- Do not spend time alone. Ask someone to stay with you if you have thoughts of committing suicide or you think you may try it.
What increases my risk for suicide?
- Depression or mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
- Someone close to you attempted or committed suicide, or you attempted suicide
- The death of a person who was important to you, or the anniversary of a death
- Relationship stress from a breakup or loss of a friendship
- Mental, physical, or sexual abuse, or being bullied
- Divorce of your parents, or a parent gets married again, especially if you have to move to a new home or school
- Not feeling accepted for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual, or for being transgender or exploring gender identity
What are the warning signs of suicide?
The following can help you and others recognize that you are struggling:
- Talking about your plan for committing suicide, or wanting to read or write about death or suicide
- Cutting yourself, burning your skin with cigarettes, or driving recklessly
- Drug or alcohol use, not taking your prescribed medicine, or taking take too much
- Not wanting to spend time with others or doing things you enjoy, feeling bored, or not wanting anyone to praise you
- Changes in your appetite, sleep habits, energy levels, or weight
- Feeling angry, lashing out at others, or running away from home
- A need to give away or throw away your belongings
- A drop in grades, not doing homework, often skipping school, or thinking about dropping out of school
- Quitting a sports team or not wanting to try out for a sport you once enjoyed
- Going to therapy and then suddenly not going
What treatment may I need?
- Medicines may be given to prevent mood swings, or to decrease anxiety or depression. You will need to take all medicines as directed. A sudden stop can be harmful. It may take 4 to 6 weeks for the medicine to help you feel better.
- Suicide risk assessment means healthcare providers will ask questions about your suicide thoughts and plans. They will ask how often you think about suicide and if you have tried it before. They will ask if you have begun to hurt yourself, such as with cutting or reckless driving. They may ask if you have access to weapons or drugs.
- A safety plan includes a list of people or groups to contact if you have suicidal feelings again. The list may include friends, family members, a spiritual leader, and others you trust. You may be asked to make a verbal agreement or sign a contract that you will not try to harm yourself.
- A therapist can help you identify and change negative feelings or beliefs about yourself. This may help change the way you feel and act. A therapist can also help you find ways to cope with things that cannot be changed.
What can I do to care for myself?
- Get help for drug or alcohol abuse. Drugs and alcohol can make suicidal feelings worse and make you more likely to act on them. Drugs and alcohol can also cause or increase depression.
- Talk to someone you trust. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings about suicide. You can call a suicide prevention center if you do not want to talk to someone you know. It may be helpful to talk to other people your age who have had suicidal thoughts. Talk to school officials or teachers if you are being bullied in school. Your parents can talk to the school officials if you are not comfortable doing this. Remember that bullying is never acceptable.
- Exercise as directed. Exercise can lift your mood, give you more energy, and make it easier to sleep.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy products, and beans. Try to eat regularly even if you do not feel hungry. Depression can increase from a lack of nutrition or if you are hungry for long periods of time.
- Create a sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Let your parents or healthcare provider know if you are having trouble sleeping.
- Take your medicine and go to therapy as directed. Medicine and therapy can help you manage your mental health. Do not stop taking your medicine without talking to your healthcare provider. If you do not like the way a medicine makes you feel, you may be able to try a different medicine.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US), or ask someone to call if:
- You have done something on purpose to hurt yourself.
- You make a plan to commit suicide.
When should I or someone close to me call my doctor or therapist?
- You act out in anger, are reckless, or are abusing alcohol or drugs.
- You have serious thoughts of suicide, even after treatment.
- You have more thoughts of suicide when you are alone.
- You stop eating, or you begin to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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