Suicide is often the result of many factors which can vary from child to child. Many children thinking about suicide are having difficulty coping with stressful factors and feel overwhelmed and hopeless.
The majority of children who consider suicide also have a mental illness like depression or substance abuse. These conditions may cause suicidal thoughts alone or simply make stressful situations worse.
Factors that may increase the risk of suicidal ideation include mental health disorders such as:
Other factors that may increase the risk of suicidal ideation include:
Children who are thinking about suicide may:
Other symptoms may include:
These symptoms can occur without suicidal ideations. However, if someone you know has these signs, try to talk to them to better learn what is happening. Asking about suicidal feelings will not encourage someone to commit suicide but may actually help prevent suicide.
If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide or harming oneself, it is crucial to seek professional help right away. There are many suicide hotlines to help those considering suicide or to provide information for friends and family of someone considering suicide.
If the risk of suicide is severe, go to an emergency room or a call for emergency services. Risk is considered severe if the person has a well thought out plan to commit suicide or has access to items that can cause harm.
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical and psychiatric history. Other family members may also be interviewed.
A mental health specialist may complete a psychological assessment to look for any underlying issues.
Immediate hospitalization may be needed if there is a severe threat of suicide.
Individual, family, and/or group therapy will be used to help manage suicidal thoughts.
Overall treatment goals include:
To help reduce your child’s risk of suicidal ideation, take these steps:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Canadian Mental Health Association
Depression in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906140/Depression-in-children-and-adolescents. Updated August 10, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
Gliatto M, Rai A. Evaluation and treatment of patients with suicidal ideation. Am Fam Physician. 1999 Mar 15;59(6):1500-1506. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0315/p1500.html#sec-3. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Klonsky ED, May AM, et al. The relationship between nonsuicidal self-injury and attempted suicide: converging evidence from four samples. J Abnorm Psychol. 2013 Feb;122(1):231-237.
Suicide—causes. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Causes.aspx. Updated September 2, 2015. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Suicide risk factors. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. Available at: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/learn/riskfactors.aspx. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Suicidal thoughts: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website. Available at: http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Consumer_Updates/Suicidal_Thoughts.aspx. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Symptoms and danger signs. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education site. Available at: http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&page_id=705f4071-99a7-f3f5-e2a64a5a8beaadd8. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Teenage suicide. National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Available at: http://www.nami.org/content/contentgroups/helpline1/teenage_suicide.htm. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Victor SE, Klonsky ED. Correlates of suicide attempts among self-injuries: a meta analysis. Clin Psychol Rev. 2014 Jun;34(4):282-297.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.