September marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time in which the nation comes together to recognize the harrowing realities of suicide and spread awareness about this highly stigmatized topic. All month long, mental health advocates and allies (like us) work to educate others about the signs and effects of suicide, to discuss suicide prevention measures, and to facilitate access to treatment for those struggling with a mental illness. Too often, suicide is the result of an untreated mental health condition.
Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss, but it is important to have conversations about it. By doing so, we can spread awareness, prevent deaths, and get those suffering the help they need.
In 2021 across the nation, there was about one suicide death every 11 minutes. Even more Americans thought about suicide or attempted it. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that over 12.3 million adults in the United States thought seriously about suicide that year.
However, suicide does not just affect adults. Anyone, of any age, can struggle with suicidal thoughts and self-harm. In fact, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults. Therefore, it is ever-important for parents and loved ones to know the signs of suicide and mental health crises in youth. Children are at risk.
To help spread awareness this September, Turnbridge has compiled a list of teen suicide facts – and what families, educators, and young people should know about suicide today.
Key Facts About Teen Suicide
The fact of the matter is: Suicide does not discriminate, and even young people are at risk. The following teen suicide statistics are flagged and cited by the CDC:
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people (ages 10 to 24).
- Youth and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24 account for 15 percent of all suicides.
- In 2020, there were over 224,000 emergency department visits for self-harm among youth.
- Girls and young women are twice as likely to be admitted to the ED for self-harm.
- In 2021, 9 percent of high school students attempted suicide in the last year, again more frequently reporting among girls.
- Nearly 20 percent, or 1 in 5 high school students, reported serious thoughts of suicide.
- High school students who identify as sexual minorities, within the LGBTQ+ community, are five times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual students.
The rates of teen suicide are alarming and on the rise. Between the years 2000 and 2021, suicide rates among teenagers and young adults have increased more than 52 percent. It’s no wonder why, with mental health issues escalating amongst this age group. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and jarring political climate over the last few years, teen mental health issues like depression and anxiety have skyrocketed. You can learn more about the upward trend (and why it’s happening) here.
While these may just sound like scary statistics right now, they are extremely important to be aware of as we wrap up 2023 and look ahead to the future. Parents and teachers especially need to know the real and growing risk of suicide amongst young age groups, and be on the lookout for any signs of distress.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), research suggests that 90 percent of people who die by suicide may have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition. By knowing the signs and symptoms, you can better protect your loved ones and help them on the path to recovery.
Warning Signs of Suicide in Teens
While it’s not always easy to spot, there are some tell-tale signs of suicidal thoughts in teenagers and young adults. Red flags to watch for include:
- Alcohol and drug use
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and community
- Neglect of personal hygiene and appearance
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Irritability and/or aggressiveness
- Significant volatility in mood
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Feelings of isolation and depression
- Feelings of being trapped, with no way out
- Talking or writing about self-harm, suicide, and/or death
- Impulsive and reckless behavior (i.e. doing dangerous, life-threatening things)
- Purchasing a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- Collecting or saving pills
- Acts of self-harm (e.g. cutting, burning – these are precursors to suicide)
Many parents may be thinking, “My teenager is moody and changing all the time—how will I know the difference between this and a mental health issue?” The truth is, there is a fine line between normal teenage behavior and signs of a behavioral or mental health disorder. However, it’s important to remember that you know your child best. You know his or her behaviors, moods, patterns. Always trust your instincts. If you sense something is off, have a conversation with your teen. Ask what’s wrong. Keep an open door policy and keep communication going. If you are concerned about any of the signs above, talk to your pediatrician or a mental health treatment provider.
Additionally, if there are any risk factors that you know of, predisposing your loved one to suicidal thoughts, you should also consider talking to your teen and seeking help when needed. Risk factors for suicide in teenagers include:
- Family history of suicide
- Trauma and past experiences with abuse/violence/bullying
- A serious or chronic mental illness
- History of substance abuse
- Intoxication (according to the CDC, 1 in 5 people who die by suicide are drunk on alcohol)
- A recent tragedy or loss
- Chronic and prolonged stress
- Access to firearms
Some of these risk factors can be mitigated with the help of a parent – removing firearms and prescriptions in the home, for example. However, some of these risk factors must be addressed by a mental health treatment professional. Seeking counseling or therapy services for your teen, even if they are not showing signs of suicide at this time, can help to prevent exacerbated mental health issues or suicide attempts in the long-run.
Crisis Resources for Those in Need
Watching your child suffer from mental health struggles is devastating, but know that these conditions are treatable. Your loved one may be struggling with depression or another illness right now, but that does not mean that suicide is inevitable. There are steps you can take to protect your loved one and ensure they get the help they need. In fact, even connecting your teen with support in the community can be monumental. According to the CDC, “Being connected to family and community support and having easy access to healthcare can decrease suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”
If you have concerns about suicide, or would like to provide your loved one or students with suicide resources, you may utilize the below resources cited by the NAMI:
- If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 immediately.
- You can also chat the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988lifeline.org without talking on the phone.
- You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
Turnbridge is also a mental health treatment center specializing in adolescent and young adult mental health. If you ever have any concerns about your loved one, or simply would like to speak with a treatment professional about an evaluation, you can always contact us. We are here for you and just one call away, at 877-581-1793.
Important Dates in September 2023
Want to keep spreading awareness about suicide, or discover more teen suicide facts? The best way to do so is to get involved this month!
As discussed, National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is recognized annually in September. However, here are some other important dates to mark your calendars with for 2023:
- September 10th to 16th, 2023 – National Suicide Prevention Week – This week will be full of opportunities to share stories of suicide and promote resources for those in need.
- September 10th, 2023 – World Suicide Prevention Day – This is a time to remember those affected by suicide, to spread awareness and reduce the stigma, and to share resources and help those struggling find treatment.
While September is specially dedicated to educating others about suicide, and preventing suicide in our communities, this is not the end of our efforts. Suicide prevention is something we must be aware of every day of the year. Too often, suicide takes the lives of our loved ones. Too often, people struggle in silence, wanting to escape depression and other mental health conditions. We must acknowledge their struggle and help them get the treatment they need and deserve.
For more information, Turnbridge can be contacted at 877-581-1793. Remember, it is never too early to seek help for a mental health concern. However, it can be too late. We are here for you.