Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States and a major public health problem. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., but the second leading cause of death for adolescents 15 to 19 years old. This is higher than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects and influenza combined.
COVID-19 has led to an increase in depression and suicide concerns especially among adolescent girls, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that for 12 to 17-year-old adolescents, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were 22 percent higher during summer 2020, and 39 percent higher during winter 2021 than during similar periods in 2019. The rate was higher for girls than for boys.
Most children and adolescents seeking to self-harm have a history of mental health issues — most frequently depression. It’s important to remember that although it’s useful to be aware of these risk factors, many adolescents can have risk factors without being suicidal.
Some of the most important risk factors to recognize for suicide are:
- Depression and other mental health disorders
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Previous suicide attempts
- Access to firearms
- Exposure to suicidal behavior among family or friends
- Exposure to violence or sexual abuse
- Substance abuse
- Rash or violent behavior
Signs to Look Out For
The warning signs that might indicate depression or reason for wider concern, include
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Frequent or overwhelming sadness
- Comments such as “I wish I was dead”, “I won’t trouble you much longer”
- Anxiety or agitation, including physical symptoms related to emotion such as stomach aches, headaches etc.
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Researching methods of self-harm
- Signs of rage, or desire for revenge
- Throwing or giving away valued possessions
How Can You Help?
Any child or adolescent thinking or talking about suicide, should be evaluated by a qualified mental health professional so that they can get a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Talk openly with your child, or suggest they talk to a trusted family friend, school counselor or doctor. Make sure that your teen doesn’t have access to guns, other weapons or medication.
Parents and teachers should always err on the side of caution and seek help early.
The Stony Brook Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program provides emergency psychiatric services to people in urgent need of psychiatric evaluation 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. If you or a loved one is having a psychiatric emergency you can call our 24-hour psychiatric emergency room at (631) 444-6050
For more information visit stonybrook.info/psych-emergency