Teen Suicide: Warning Signs & Prevention

If your child is considering suicide, call or text 988 or chat on 988lifeline.org. The Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.


The word “suicide” is often spoken in a hushed whisper, and it can be a painful topic to discuss with loved ones – but the truth is that we need to be discussing it. In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide and it was the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. Additionally, there were an estimated 1.20 million suicide attempts. Most of us, if not all of us, have been impacted by suicide in some way. For parents, the thought of our children or teens contemplating suicide is a thought too horrific to bear but sticking our heads in the sand is not the answer. Below are a few warning signs to watch for, and what to do if you’re concerned.


Warning Signs to Look For

Withdrawing from friends and family

Spending more time alone and less time with loved ones can be a sign of depression and potentially suicidal ideation. If you notice that your child is suddenly uninterested in spending time with their loved ones, talk to them.


Often, teens will attempt to ease their feelings of depression and hopelessness by using alcohol or drugs. If you notice an increase in this type of behavior, don’t chalk it up to typical teenage experimentation. 

A change in normal routines

Take note if your teen is experiencing any drastic changes in their typical routine, including major changes in sleep or appetite. Anything far outside of the norm should be addressed.

Engaging in risky and self-destructive behaviors

If your teen is suddenly behaving in ways that could result in injury or death, it’s time to intervene.

Giving away belongings

If your teen is suddenly offering up their belongings and there is no logical reason, they may be making plans to end their life. If you notice this behavior, it’s important to check in with them immediately.

Mood swings

Mood fluctuations can be a sign of a mental health issue. If you notice mood swings along with other concerning behaviors, it’s important that you don’t write them off as “typical” adolescent behavior.

Talking or writing about suicide

Many children and adolescents who die by suicide spoke or wrote about their plan beforehand. Even if it seems like a casual or flippant statement from your teen, take it seriously.



Preventing Suicide

If you think your child is in immediate danger, call 911 or 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Do not worry about overreacting. If you believe your child may attempt suicide, do not hesitate to act.

Enlist the help of a counselor or psychiatrist.

You shouldn’t navigate this alone. Find a counselor who is experienced in working with adolescents. If necessary, they can also refer you to a psychiatrist.

Talk openly about mental health and don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide.”

There is no benefit to keeping the topic of suicide hidden in the shadows. Instead, that can teach your child that this is a taboo topic, and you are not willing to speak openly about it. Show them that you aren’t scared to discuss it. Open the dialogue and let them know that you’re ready and willing to talk about what they’re experiencing.


Listen to what they have to say without judgment or criticism. Give them a safe place to share their thoughts, however scary they might be. Show them that you are someone they can trust and remind them that they don’t have to deal with anything alone.

 Support your child’s treatment plan.

If your child is seeing a counselor or psychiatrist, help them follow their treatment plan. This may involve creating safety plans, taking medication consistently, creating healthy daily habits, or simply going to all appointments. Be a supportive and positive force in their treatment.

Remove their access to weapons and medications.

In one recent study, researchers found that over 80% of teens who completed suicide used a family member’s firearm. Often, suicide is a decision made when emotions are at their highest or substances are involved. While removing things like guns or pills is not sufficient alone in preventing suicide, it can help.

Suicide can be a scary topic, but you’re not alone in this. Talking openly and safely about suicide can help you figure out if your teen needs help. Don’t hesitate to take action if your gut tells you something isn’t right.