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What is suicide?
Suicide is when a person takes action that causes their own death.
A suicide attempt is when a person takes action to cause their own death, but they don’t die.
How common is suicide in kids and teens?
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. Rates of suicide in young children and teens have been going up in recent years.
What are some reasons people consider dying by suicide?
There are many reasons that people think about dying by suicide. Mental health problems, relationship issues, bullying, school pressures, grief, chronic pain, trauma and working through finding one’s identity are just some of the things that can make people feel overwhelmed. Thoughts of suicide are more common than you might think and it’s important to recognize when a child or teen may be struggling.
What are common suicide warning signs?
Some things a child or teen says or does can be a sign that they are in immediate danger. Watch for a child or teen who:
- Talks about or makes plans for suicide
- Seems hopeless about the future
- Displays severe or overwhelming emotional pain or distress
- Has drastic mood and behavior changes, including engaging in self-harm behaviors, with or without intent to die.
If a child or teen does any of these things, ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide.
If I ask someone if they’re thinking about suicide will that just give them the idea?
No. Asking about suicide does not give someone the idea to die by suicide and it does not increase their risk of suicide. In fact, asking can be the difference between life and death. It offers relief to someone who may be struggling and helps them feel noticed and heard.
What if my child or teen says they have thought about suicide?
Stay calm if someone says they have thought about suicide and:
- Contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for help. Call or text them at 988. Chat is available at 988lifeline.org/chat. You can contact the service with your child or teen or on your own to get support.
- Reduce the risk of suicide by removing pills (over-the-counter and prescription) and firearms from your home. If you can’t remove them, place them in a safe, lockbox or other secure place.
- If they are in immediate danger of harming themselves, don’t leave them alone. Take your child to the closest Emergency Department (ED). If you cannot safely transport them, please call 911. Tell them you have a mental health emergency and need your child taken to the ED. You can also use your county crisis line for help with problem-solving.
Why don’t I hear more about suicide?
Suicide is an uncomfortable topic for people to talk about. Losing someone you love is always hard. The feelings that come with losing someone to suicide are extra complex. Sometimes families don’t want to share that their loved one died by suicide or attempted suicide because of the complex feelings.
Know that there’s no shame in having a loved one die by suicide. Mental health problems are common and it’s not the fault of a parent, caregiver or any other family member when someone dies by suicide.
Suicide can be prevented with safety planning and the right support. Get help from the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 988. You can call or text 988. Chat is also available at 988lifeline.org/chat.
What else can I do to prevent suicide?
Parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches and others in the community can help prevent suicide.
- Check in with the children and teens in your life often to understand how they’re feeling. Listen to their words and watch their behaviors.
- Validate their feelings and let them know they’re heard.
- Help kids and teens develop healthy coping skills. Ask them to come up with ideas for how to cope when they start to feel scared, mad, sad or otherwise upset.
- Notice mental health warning signs and get treatment if you spot a problem. Start by asking your child’s doctor.
- Reduce the risk of suicide by removing medicines and firearms from your home. If you can’t remove them, use safe storage steps.
Are children and teens screened for suicide as part of visits with healthcare providers?
National safety guidelines recommend that healthcare providers routinely screen young patients for the risk of suicide — even when the reason for the visit is not mental health–related. At Seattle Children’s locations, we now ask all patients 10 and older if they have suicidal thoughts. Learn more about suicide screening at Seattle Children’s.
Remember, asking about suicide does not cause suicide or put the idea in a child’s head. These screenings are saving young lives.
To Learn More:
- Youth Suicide Warning Signs
- Seattle Children’s Suicide Prevention Program
- Forefront Suicide Prevention LEARN Skills
- Hotlines for Youth
- Washington Firearm Safe Storage Map
- Mental Health Resource Hub
- Home Safety Strategies
- Washington’s Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens
- Youth Mental Health First Aid Class
- Finding Mental Health Care in Washington State: A Class on Where to Start