What are warning signs of suicide in youth?

Many of the warning signs for youth at risk for killing themselves are the same as for adults, but there are some differences. In youth, the strongest risk factors are depression, alcohol or other drug use disorder, and aggressive or disruptive behaviors. Parents and others should pay attention to the following:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities.
  • Rebellious or violent behavior, including running away.
  • Use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Unusual interest in TV programs, movies, books, drawings and music about death and violence.
  • Unusual neglect of personal appearance.
  • Obvious personality change.
  • Talking or joking about suicide.
  • Lasting boredom, inability to concentrate, or slipping grades.
  • Frequent physical complaints, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
  • Not accepting or responding to praise or rewards.

If a child is showing any of these signs, parents or caregivers should talk to the child about their concerns. They should seek professional help if the symptoms don't go away. If a child or teen says he wants to kill himself, it should be taken very seriously. Parent should seek help from a mental health professional immediately.

  • Call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is in suicidal danger.
  • Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) – National Hope Line Network.
    (Available 24 hours/7 days)
  • Call National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To learn more:

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
Provides lists of danger signs and symptoms, answers common questions and teaches suicide prevention. It also offers suggestions on how to deal with sensitive situations such as how to tell a child about a suicide.

next » How do you prevent suicide?

Written by: Janice C. May, M.P.A.
Reviewed by: Jeffrey G. Schultze, M.D.
Last Modified: Saturday September 16, 2017 9:43 PM