Warning signs of teen suicide

Current knowledge about the risk factors and warning signs of teen suicide comes from clinical sources and “psychological autopsy” studies of youth who have completed suicide. Researchers interview the family members, friends, school staff, and other significant people who know the deceased teen and try to discover the factors that may have contributed to their death. The vast majority of youth who die by suicide have significant psychiatric problems, including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse problems. Between on quarter to one third had made a prior attempt. A family history of suicide greatly increased the risk. Stressful life events such as interpersonal losses, legal or disciplinary crises, or changes for which the teen felt unprepared to cope were also reported. Teens who are suicidal don’t just wake up one day and decide that life is no longer worth living; complex dynamics underlie suicide attempts and completions. These dynamics provide an important foundation for our understanding of suicidal youth, but this information may not be accessible or even relevant in a school setting. What is more relevant to those in a school are the ‘warning signs’ of suicide. These warning signs are attitudes or behaviours that can be observed when a student may be at risk of suicide. Often feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, self-hate, extreme sadness are present. Talking or writing about death, and significant personality changes, such as becoming withdrawn, feeling tired all the time, not caring about anything, an inability to concentrate, not being able to sleep or sleeping all the time, losing interest in friends, hobbies, sports, and sudden improvement in mood after a long period of being down.

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