Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
Developmentally, the years between childhood and adulthood represent a critical period of transition and significant cognitive, mental, emotional, and social change. While adolescence is a time of tremendous growth and potential, navigating new milestones in preparation for adult roles involving education, employment, relationships, and living circumstances can be difficult. These transitions can lead to various mental health challenges that can be associated with increased risk for suicide.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth age 15-24.1 Approximately one out of every 15 high school students reports attempting suicide each year.2 One out of every 53 high school students reports having made a suicide attempt that was serious enough to be treated by a doctor or a nurse.3 For each suicide death among young people, there may be as many as 100 to 200 suicide attempts.4 For some groups of youth—including those who are involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender; American Indian/Alaska Native; and military service members—the incidence of suicidal behavior is even higher.5
Despite how common suicidal thoughts and attempts (as well as mental health disorders which can be associated with increased risk for suicide) are among youth, there is a great deal known about prevention as well as caring for youth and communities after an attempt or death. Parents, guardians, family members, friends, teachers, school administrators, coaches and extracurricular activity leaders, mentors, service providers, and many others can play a role in preventing suicide and supporting youth.
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 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.
Resources and Information on Suicide from SAMHSA
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funds and supports the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. It manages the Garrett Lee Smith grant program, which funds State, Territorial, and Tribal programs to prevent suicide among youth. SAMHSA developed the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), which reviews evidence of effectiveness for prevention programs on topics related to behavioral health, including suicide. SAMHSA also sponsors prevention campaigns and provides resources.
Injury Prevention and Control: Suicide Resources from CDC
Resources, publications and articles on suicide, prevention, and risk from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including links to some statistical databases, including WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System), YRBSS (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System), National Violent Death Reporting System, and National Vital Statistics System.
Suicidal Thoughts and Attempts among U.S. High School Students: Trends and Associated Health-Risk Behaviors, 1991-2011
This article published in the Journal of Adolescent Health describes trends in suicidal thoughts and attempts and the types of associated health-risk behaviors among high school students.
Suicides — United States, 2005–2009
This report from the CDC provides data on suicide in the United States and differences in the characteristics of those who have died from suicide.
Suicide Information from the National Institute of Mental Health
Information on suicide prevention, treatment, and resources from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)—funded by SAMHSA—helps strengthen suicide prevention efforts of state, tribal, community, and campus organizations and coalitions as well as organizations that serve populations with high suicide rates. It provides technical assistance, training, resource materials and a newsletter, an online library, and customized information for professionals working to prevent suicide. SPRC also co-produces the Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention.
Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention
The Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention is funded by the CDC to promote a public health approach to suicide research and prevention. It conducts research, provides technical assistance, and organizes conference calls, webinars, and an annual Research Training Institute for those engaged in suicide-related research and working in the field of suicide prevention.
Youth Risk and Behavior Survey: Data Summary and Trends Report, 2007 - 2017
This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report provides data summary and trend information on varying topics, including mental health and suicide.
1 CDC, 2011
2 Eaton et al., 2010
3 Eaton et al., 2010
4 McIntosh, 2010
5 HHS, 2012
Other Resources on this Topic
Tools & Guides
Videos & Podcasts
Webinars & Presentations
Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).