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Teen Suicide Prevention: What Everyone Should Know

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September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and this year it’s more important than ever before for parents, healthcare providers, teachers, and teenagers themselves to understand the key elements of teen suicide prevention. With 1 in 5 teens having seriously considered suicide, the teen mental health crisis continues to be one of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2023, which includes World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) and Suicide Prevention Week (September 10–16), offers an opportunity for mental health and youth organizations to bring this topic out into the open, so teens know that they are not alone.

As part of this effort, Newport Academy is partnering for the seventh year in a row with To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) to amplify the conversation about teen suicide prevention and to take action to reverse the increasing rate of youth suicide. TWLOHA is a non-profit dedicated to combating depression and suicide among teens and providing resources for suicidal teens.

TWLOHA’s 2023 campaign theme is “The World Is Not Better Without You.” The organization raises funding to educate communities, provide hope and encouragement, and connect people to the help they deserve.

Key Takeaways

  • During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, mental health and youth organizations raise awareness and funds for youth suicide prevention.
  • In the past 10 years, suicide rates among young people ages 10–17 have increased by more than 70 percent.
  • Risk factors for teen suicide include a history of depression or anxiety, lack of support, being bullied, and experiencing violence, abuse, or other types of trauma.
  • Treatment for teen depression and suicidal thoughts can save lives and give young people hope.

Teenage Suicide Facts

A new study finds that suicide has become the leading cause of death among 13- and 14-year-olds in the United States. Moreover, between 2008 and 2018, the suicide rate among this age group more than doubled. The teen suicide rate increased from about two deaths per 100,000 teens to five deaths per 100,000.

2023 Statistics on Depression and Suicide in Teens

Studies examining depression and suicide among teens reveal the following troubling statistics.

  • More than 1 in 5 teens have seriously considered suicide.
  • In the past 10 years, suicide rates among young people ages 10–17 have increased by more than 70 percent.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States among ages 15–24, and the first leading cause for 13- and 14-year-olds.
  • Every day in the United States, there are more than 3,000 suicide attempts by high school students, according to the Jason Foundation.
  • Rates of suicide in youth are twice as high in Black teens as compared to their white peers, according to the American Academy of Adolescent Psychiatry.
  • Half of LGBTQ teens considered suicide in the past year, and 18 percent made a suicide attempt.
  • The number of teens admitted to children’s hospitals as a result of suicidal thoughts or self-harm has more than doubled during the last decade.
  • The United States faces a severe shortage of practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists, with over 85 percent of doctor’s offices reporting difficulty locating mental healthcare providers for their patients under 18.

Sources: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Trevor Project, American Association of Suicidology


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New Research on Suicide Among Adolescent Girls

New statistics show the devastating state of mental health among teen girls in particular. CDC research from 2023 shows that nearly 1 in 3 teen girls (30 percent) seriously contemplated attempting suicide. that’s an increase of nearly 60 percent as a compare to a decade ago. Moreover, 1 in 4 teen girls reported making suicide plans.

While teen girls are more likely than boys to report symptoms of anxiety and depression, they are also more apt to hide the emotional pain that leads to suicidal behavior. Hence, suicides by female adolescents often are unexpected. Furthermore, impulsivity is a key risk factor in suicide, and teen girls are likely to be impulsive. In addition, recent research shows that the black-and-white thinking patterns of teen girls may make them more prone to suicidal ideation and behavior. 

But that doesn’t mean that teen boys are not at risk. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), pinpointed a spike in suicides among older teenage boys—up to 17.9 per 1000,000 in 2017. In addition, while males are less likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression, they are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide, because they tend to use deadlier methods.

Teenage Suicide Causes and Risk Factors

Many factors can contribute to the risk of adolescent suicide. Risk factors do not cause teen suicide, but they may contribute to a teen’s likelihood of making a suicide attempt.

The top reasons for teenage suicide include the following:

  • Depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders
  • Family history of suicide
  • A history of substance abuse
  • Exposure to violence, abuse, or other trauma
  • Social isolation or bullying
  • Losing a family member through death or divorce
  • Financial or job loss
  • Conflict within relationships
  • Starting or changing psychotropic medications
  • Feeling stigmatized
  • Lack of support

Questions to Ask a Teen You’re Concerned About …

What do you worry about?
How do you feel about growing up?
Is bullying a problem at your school?
What do you wish was different?
What helps you cope? 

What Are Suicidal Thoughts?

For every person who attempts or completes suicide, many more suffer from suicidal ideation. Suicidal ideation is defined as having suicidal thoughts—thoughts of ending one’s life. This is much more common than we might imagine.

However, thinking about suicide does not necessarily mean that a teen will make an actual suicide attempt. Many teens may think about suicide, but their suicidal thoughts do not progress to suicide plans or suicide attempts.

Moreover, suicidal thoughts can also become a cognitive habit, an ongoing mental pattern. Such thoughts often result from depression, or from a desire to escape a situation that seems impossible to handle.

Suicidal thoughts can quickly escalate to a suicide attempt, so teens suffering from suicidal ideation need treatment before any actual planning begins. Youth suicide prevention is most effective when signs are caught early and a suicidal teenager receives effective mental health support immediately.

Preventing Teenage Suicide: Suicide Warning Signs

During the back-to-school season, parents, teachers, coaches, and others who work or live with adolescents need to be particularly vigilant as teens adjust to new schedules and expectations. Here are some of the warning signs indicating that a teen is considering suicide.

  • Talking or posting on social media about suicide or wanting to die
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Increasing use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Changes in weight, appearance, or sleep habits
  • Gathering drugs, sharp objects, firearms, or other items that could be used to commit suicide or self-harm
  • Isolating themselves and withdrawing from friends
  • Searching online for methods of committing suicide
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye, and giving away prized possessions
  • Trouble concentrating and/or a drop in academic performance
  • Migraines, frequent stomachaches, or other physical complaints
  • Risk-taking or self-destructive behavior
  • Suddenly becoming calm or cheerful after a long period of depression.

If you see any of these signs, take the following actions for preventing teenage suicide and accessing help for a suicidal teenager:

  1. Do not leave the person alone.
  2. Remove anything that could be used in a suicide attempt, including firearms, alcohol, drugs, razors, or other sharp objects.
  3. Call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  4. Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

Ways to Prevent Suicide in Youth

Along with risk factors, there are also factors that assist in teenage suicide prevention. The following resources and skills are helpful in preventing teenage suicide:

  • Access to treatment for mental health, physical health, and substance abuse disorders, including suicide assessment when warranted
  • Family and community support
  • Skills in problem-solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Tools for coping and emotional self-regulation
  • Cultural and/or religious beliefs that discourage suicide.

Suicide can be the tragic result of untreated depression. Thus, treatment for depression is a vital factor in teenage suicide prevention. With suicidal depression, different forms of individual therapy contribute toward sustainable healing. Furthermore, such treatment is also essential for suicide attempt survivors.

“We are grateful for all that TWLOHA does to raise awareness, promote prevention, and erase the stigma of suicide. Remaining idle is not an option when so many are struggling with thoughts of self-harm and hopelessness amplified by the pandemic. Newport is proud to play a part in helping people access much-needed treatment so that they can see the importance of living another day.”

Joe Procopio, CEO, Newport Healthcare

Teen Suicide Prevention: Treatment Approaches

For a suicidal teenager, treatment should include a variety of clinical and experiential modalities to address the multiple factors that leave teens vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and attempts. The following evidence-based modalities help prevent depression and suicide in teens.

Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is specifically designed to address depression and the risk of teen suicide, by repairing ruptured relationships between parents and teens. As a result, young people feel safe enough to turn to their parents for support when they are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) brings clarity to what a teen is thinking and feeling. CBT identifies the emotions that often result in a sense of isolation. Consequently, it identifies the self-defeating thoughts and assumptions that make life more difficult. CBT provides valuable insight for the depressed teen.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) leads to transformation and healing. This therapy helps teens make positive choices. MET helps resolve any initial resistance to treatment.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) provides specific skills like mindfulness and emotional regulation. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that DBT is particularly effective in reducing suicidal attempts and self-harm among adolescents. Teens learn to recognize the sensations in their body when dangerous impulses arise, put those feelings into words, and use simple techniques to shift their nervous system.

Experiential modalities, such as art therapy and music therapy, give teens ways to process their emotions through self-expression and body-based practices.

Positive coping and relaxation skills for managing stress can help protect teens against suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Outcomes-Driven Teen Treatment at Newport Academy

At Newport Academy, we guide adolescents to process trauma and build resilience and healthy coping skills to navigate the stressors of growing up in today’s world. Our treatment is proven to reduce teen suicide risk and increase well-being.

Contact us today to learn more and get started on the path to healing.


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