Teen suicide is a growing health concern. It is the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, surpassed only by accidents, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to experts Michelle Moskos, Jennifer Achilles, and Doug Gray, causes of suicidal distress include psychological, environmental and social factors. Mental illness is the leading risk factor for suicide. Suicide risk factors vary with age, gender, ethnic group, family dynamics and stressful life events. According to a 2016 fact sheet distributed by the National Institute of Mental Health, research shows that risk factors for suicide include depression and other mental disorders, and substance-abuse disorders (often in combination with other mental disorders). More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors. The risk for suicide frequently occurs in combination with external circumstances that seem to overwhelm at-risk teens who are unable to cope with the challenges of adolescence because of predisposing vulnerabilities such as mental disorders. Examples of stressors are disciplinary problems, interpersonal losses, family violence, sexual orientation confusion, physical and sexual abuse and being the victim of bullying.
National suicide prevention efforts have focused on school education programs, crisis center hotlines, media guidelines (suicide prevention strategies that involve educating media professionals about the prevalence of copycat suicides among adolescents, in an effort to minimize the impact of news stories reporting suicide) and efforts to limit firearm access.
Referrals can be made for treatment, and treatment can be effective when signs are observed in time. Intervention efforts for at-risk youth can put them in contact with mental health services that can save their lives.
Suicide is a relatively rare event and it is difficult to accurately predict which persons with these risk factors will ultimately commit suicide. However, there are some possible warning signs such as: