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Suicide Prevention For Children And Adolescents


Your child may see suicide as the only way to escape emotional or physical pain and suffering. Call 911 if you feel your child is at immediate risk of suicide, or if he talks about an active suicide plan. Assume that he intends to carry out his plan. Watch for warning signs, and get him the help he needs.


If your child is thinking about hurting himself:

Resources are available to help you and your child. You can help provide emotional support for your child and get the help he needs. You can watch for warning signs that your child may be feeling suicidal.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
  • Contact your child's therapist. Your child's primary healthcare provider can give you a list of therapists if your child does not have one.
  • Do not leave your child alone. Stay with him if he says he wants to commit suicide or you think he may try it.
  • Keep medicines, weapons, and alcohol out of your child's reach. Make sure you do not put yourself at risk if your child has a weapon.
  • Do not be afraid to ask if he is thinking of ending his life. Ask if he has a plan for hurting or killing himself. Ask what he would use to kill himself and if he has it.

Watch for warning signs:

Your younger child may injure himself in an attempt to feel better rather than to commit suicide. These actions are often a sign that your child needs help. Do not ignore these injuries or any of the following warning signs:

  • Your child talks about his plan for committing suicide.
  • Your child starts doing poorly at school. He may stop turning in homework or struggle with subjects that were not difficult before.
  • Your child does dangerous things that could kill him.
  • Your child cuts himself, burns his skin with cigarettes, or drives recklessly.
  • Your child begins to joke, read, or write about suicide, killing, and death.
  • Your child says he will not see you again or that soon he will not be a problem for you.
  • Your child withdraws from others or stops doing things he enjoys. He gives or throws away his favorite things.
  • Your child is sad every day. Then he becomes suddenly very happy and cheerful after a time of depression and sadness.
  • Your child has changes in how he eats, sleeps, or dresses. He may gain or lose weight, or have less energy than usual. He may have trouble sleeping or spend a lot of time sleeping.

Care for your child at home:

Do not make your child feel you are judging him or tell him that his suicide would be hard on you or others. Tell him you are here to support and help him.

  • Give your child the contact information for services that can help him. Talk to him about therapy and medicines available to help him. He may follow through with treatment if he feels he was included in the planning.
  • Listen when your child wants to talk. Let him know that you take his feelings and thoughts very seriously. Help your child understand that he can talk to you, another parent, or a close friend about his feelings. He can also talk to a therapist, religious or youth leader, or school counselor. Tell your child that these people want to help. Encourage him to talk to others about the way he feels. He may want to keep a daily journal where he can write about how he feels.
  • Help your child spend time with family and friends. Get him involved with school events, a local community center, or activity groups.
  • Help him make a list of things he hopes to do. Encourage him to make plans for what he is going to do for the next day, month, and year. Help your child make goals for his life. Encourage him to start doing things to make his goals happen.
  • Have your child help you plan healthy meals and snacks. Ask his primary healthcare provider for more information if you have questions. Help your child make a bedtime schedule so he does not get too little or too much sleep.


  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants can help your child feel well enough to continue with all of the treatment he needs. Rarely, antidepressants can make your child more likely to act on his suicidal thoughts. This can happen during the first few months after he starts taking an antidepressant or changes the amount he takes. You will need to watch your child very closely for any such changes during the first 4 weeks he is taking it. Do not let your child stop taking this medicine unless directed. A sudden stop can be harmful.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's therapist or primary healthcare provider as directed:

Your child may be seen in a clinic or his primary healthcare provider's office. You and family members may have meetings with your child's therapist or primary healthcare provider. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    New York , NY 10004
    Phone: 1- 800 - 273-TALK (8255)
    Web Address:
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
    8120 Penn Ave. S., Ste. 470
    Bloomington , Minnesota 55431
    Phone: 1- 952 - 946-7998
    Web Address:

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider or therapist if:

  • You begin to see warning signs.
  • Your child has changes in behavior when he starts on depression medicine or his dose is changed.
  • Your child acts out in anger or has reckless behavior.
  • Your child withdraws from friends or loved ones.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child does something on purpose to hurt himself, such as cutting his wrists.
  • Your child swallows medicines or other harmful substances, such as antifreeze.
  • Your child says he wants to commit suicide.
  • Your child feels that he cannot stop himself from hurting himself or others.
  • Your child has sudden mood changes, such as angry outbursts or despair.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.