The thought of ending your life when most of it is yet to come can be hard to understand. Unfortunately, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people 10-24. Teens turn to suicide because they truly feel it is the only way out–of a bad situation or of unbearable pain.
Suicide is not the answer. There is always help available, and it does get better.
Why do people take their own lives?
People kill themselves because they are in emotional pain that feels impossible to endure. There can sometimes, but not always, be a triggering event, like a breakup or loss, financial woes, or addiction. They may be experiencing the trauma of poverty and racism, or struggling with their sexual or gender identity. Suicide rates for LBGTQ teens are much higher than those of the general population. They may feel like no one cares about them, like they can’t see a future, or like they can’t live with themselves.
Most people who attempt suicide are suffering from distorted thinking caused by depression. Depression makes you believe that you’ll always feel as low as you do right now. It blurs your ability to imagine a future in which you’ll feel better, making suicide feel like the only way to escape your pain.
Teens are especially vulnerable to this way of thinking because they do not yet have the life experience of surviving similar low periods. Older people with more life experience have perhaps come through dark times and realized their own resilience. Teens that are experiencing depression, loss, or grief for the first time don’t have the perspective to realize that things do get better. Teen suicide attempts are highest in mid-adolescence, and by age 17, attempts begin to drop. This may be because young people gain the perspective to know that they can get through this.
Severe depression, drug abuse, trauma, and other seemingly inescapable circumstances can feel impossible to endure. However, you do have hope. Recovery is possible.
What should I do if I am suicidal?
If you are in immediate danger, call a crisis line right away. A suicide hotline is confidential, staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will talk you through your current crisis as well as give you steps to move forward. If you need someone in your city to help you right away, calling 911 may be your best option. A suicide hotline can walk you through the best phrasing to use with 911 to ensure that paramedics with mental health training, not police, are dispatched in the case of a crisis.
The best, and bravest, thing you can do is ask for help. Tell a trusted adult, like a teacher, guidance counselor, or parent right away, and don’t minimize how you’re feeling. Don’t wait to tell someone in the hopes that you’ll feel better on your own. There is so much help out there. There are people who care about you. You may be afraid of upsetting your parents, teachers, or friends, but while they may be worried or scared, they will be grateful that you came to them for help instead of letting the situation progress further.
What will happen if I tell someone I’m suicidal?
Many people are afraid of what they’ll set in motion once they tell someone, and believe it’s easier to just deal with it themselves. Ideally, telling an adult should result in meeting with a mental health professional for assessment. A mental health professional should be able to help you with your current crisis, assess your level of risk to yourself, and make recommendations for further treatment. You may be treated with therapy, medications, and in some cases, hospitalization. Hospitalization is a measure that is only employed when you’re unable to be safe without consistent psychiatric care, or are in danger of imminent suicide. There are a lot of myths about hospitalization that are talked about further here. If it’s determined to be necessary, hospitalization can literally save your life, and for many teens can be the first step toward recovery.
Sometimes, you may work up the courage to tell someone and they may react badly or not take you seriously. This is very discouraging, but it doesn’t mean that it’s hopeless or that you can’t be helped. Summon up the strength to talk to someone else, or call a suicide prevention hotline and ask how to proceed.
Many teens who have thought about or even attempted suicide grow up to be healthy, happy adults. You can’t see how much better your life can be if you don’t stick around. You matter. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call a hotline or tell someone right now.
What do I do if I think a friend is suicidal?
If you think your friend may be suicidal, the best thing to do is to ask outright and tell a trusted adult that you are concerned about your friend’s well-being. Many people avoid the topic, because it’s a sensitive subject or they don’t want to place the idea in the person’s head. However, most of the time, people will be honest about their plans and even relieved that someone is checking in with them. Listen to your friend, ask questions, and tell them that you are there for them. Encourage your friend to call a hotline, speak to an adult, or seek help. You can support them by offering to sit with them while they call, speak to a parent, or make an appointment. Although it is not your responsibility to do the work of a mental health clinician, do not leave them alone until they are connected with professional care or with an adult.
This is not a secret you can keep. You must tell an adult, even if it feels like a betrayal of your friends’ confidence. Speak to a guidance counselor, teacher, doctor, or trusted parent. You can also call a suicide hotline who can advise you how to proceed in your specific situation. This is too much for you to carry on your own. Don’t wait for your friend to feel better, act today to potentially save a life. If you think your friend is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone. Call someone you trust, take them to an emergency room, or call a suicide hotline.
When a peer or a friend does attempt or die of suicide, it can be shocking and confusing. Despite the treatments available, sometimes people lose their battle with mental illness just as they do with physical. This might bring up complicated feelings in addition to grief. You might feel angry, or guilty, or ashamed. You may worry that you didn’t do enough. No matter what, remember that it isn’t your fault. It can be helpful to see a counselor or therapist to work through your grief.
WARNING SIGNS TO WATCH FOR
Often, people give indication that they are thinking about suicide. If your friend is…
- Talking about suicide or wanting to die, or, “go away” or “give up”
- Discussing or procuring methods of killing themselves
- Self-loathing, saying that they are worthless or that friends or family would be better off without them
- “Making arrangements,” giving away belongings, saying goodbye to friends and family, making arrangements for pets
- Increased risk-taking: driving recklessly, using drugs or alcohol, unsafe sex
- Out of character behavior, changes in grades and motivation
- Isolating themselves, not doing things they used to enjoy
- Sleeping too much or too little
ASK them if they are considering suicide and TELL a trusted adult. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, do not wait to get help. Tell someone right away, so you can start on the road to feeling better.
This information is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services, only general information for education purposes only.