According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four out of five youth who attempt suicide showed clear warning signs of their intentions prior to the attempt. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals ages 10-24. This national crisis is impacting young people at the highest rate on record, which is why it is so important for parents, guardians, students, teachers, coaches, and anyone who regularly works with youth to know the warning signs of suicide.
Here are a few signs everyone should know that may indicate a person is struggling and may be at risk of suicide. If you recognize any of these symptoms in a child, teen or young adult, talk openly with them and seek professional help:
- withdrawal from friends and family
- trouble in romantic/personal relationships
- slump in academic/professional performance
- giving away possessions
- writing or drawing pictures about death
- changes in eating habits/weight gain or loss
- dramatic personality changes/signs of despair
- deterioration of personal hygiene
- problems sleeping
- participation in risky behavior (drugs, alcohol, sex, self-harm)
- talk of suicide, even in a joking way
- have a plan of how they would kill him/herself
- have a history of suicidal attempts
If you suspect that someone is considering suicide, be upfront about your concerns and ask them directly if they are considering suicide. Listen intently and validate how they feel collecting as much information as possible to determine if danger is imminent. DO NOT mistake a cry for help and a ploy for attention.
If you feel a person is in imminent danger, do not leave them alone and call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room. You can also contact the 24-hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free confidential support and crisis resources 1-800-273-8255. If you are more comfortable with text messaging, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor; standard messaging rates apply.
Be there for those around you. Educate yourself on the signs of suicide and if you suspect someone you know is contemplating ending their life, don’t be afraid to speak to them openly or act to get them help. That is the recipe for caring for one another and ending the suicide epidemic.