Preventing Youth Suicide
Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting, significant effects on youth, families, peers, and communities. The causes of suicide among youth are complex and involve many factors. Reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors and resilience is critical.1
Knowing the warning signs is also critical. Warning signs for those at risk of suicide include: talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, seeking revenge, and being a burden on others; looking for methods and making plans such as searching online or buying a gun; increasing use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawal or isolation; and displaying rage and extreme mood swings.2 The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.3 Paying attention to warning signs for mental health challenges that can be associated with increased risk for suicide is also important.
No one person (parent, teacher, counselor, administrator, mentor, etc.) can implement suicide prevention efforts on their own. The participation, support, and active involvement of families, schools, and communities are essential. Youth focused suicide prevention strategies are available. Promotion and prevention services are also available to address mental health issues. Schools, where youth spend the majority of their time, are a natural setting to support mental health.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. When you call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), you are connected to the nearest crisis center in a national network of more than 150 that provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals day and night. The Lifeline also provides informational materials, such as brochures, wallet cards, posters, and booklets. Prestamos servicios en español (1-888-628-9454). Translators speaking approximately 150 languages are available.
2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action (PDF, 184 pages)
The National Strategy is a call to action from the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention intended to guide suicide prevention in the United States. The National Strategy includes 13 goals and 60 objectives that reflect advances in suicide prevention knowledge, research, and practice, as well as broader changes in society and health care delivery.
Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools (PDF, 230 pages)
This toolkit was funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and helps high schools, school districts, and their partners design and implement strategies to prevent suicide and promote behavioral health among students.
Suicide Prevention: Resources and New Publications from SAMHSA
The goal of this list of resources from SAMHSA is to provide youth, families, professionals, and organizations with information about how to seek help, provide assistance, and implement suicide prevention programs.
Suicide: A Major, Preventable Mental Health Problem—FAQs
Some common questions and answers about suicide among children and youth from the National Institute of Mental Health.
My Child’s Academic Success: Problems—Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence
This resource from the U.S. Department of Education discusses how parents can tell if their child is having a serious problem and what they can do—includes information on suicide, depression, and other challenges.
The Role of High School Mental Health Providers in Preventing Suicide (PDF, 8 pages)
This information sheet from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)—funded by SAMHSA—is for school staff responsible for handling student mental health crises.
Death/Suicide in the School Community
Resources from the Office of Overseas Schools at the U.S. Department of State to help staff learn about suicide and support students who may be contemplating suicide or are considered at risk of suicide.
We Can Help Us: Preventing Teen Suicide
The "We Can Help Us" campaign empowers youth to help reduce the teen suicide rate.
You Matter Campaign
The goal of the You Matter campaign is to educate youth about the signs of suicide, what can be done to prevent it, and resources available to help get through tough times.
Public Service Announcement: We All Have a Role to Play in Preventing Suicide
A public service announcement from Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, United States Surgeon General.
A Treatment Improvement Protocol from SAMHSA.
What to Avoid
This webpage documents the dangers of suggesting that bullying causes suicide.
Misdirections in Bullying Prevention and Response Video
The video features Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, a national expert in bullying prevention, who discusses approaches to avoid in bullying prevention and response. "Misdirection #4: Overstating or Simplifying the Relationship Between Bullying & Suicide" begins at 3:08,
Bullying Prevention Community Action Toolkit (PDF, 58 pages)
This toolkit includes the section, "Bullying and Suicide: Cautionary Notes" (pp. 25-28).
Research Brief: Suicide and Bullying
This research brief from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ StopBullying.gov website presents data and information on suicide and bullying.
Bullying and Suicide: What’s the Connection?
This blog post from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ StopBullying.gov website discusses what is known and unknown about the relationship between bullying and suicide.
1 CDC, n.d.
2 SAMHSA, n.d.
3 SAMHSA, n.d.
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