If you have been thinking about suicide, get help now. Depression
is powerful. You can't wait and hope that your mood might improve. When a person has
been feeling down for a long time, it's hard to step back and be objective.
Talk to someone you trust as soon as you can. If you can't talk to a parent, talk
to a coach, a relative, a school
counselor, a religious leader, or a teacher. Call a suicide crisis line (such
as 1-800-273-8255) or your local emergency number (911).
You also can turn to these resources for 24/7 help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or text
CONNECT to 741741. You also can contact them through their
Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ community: 1-866-488-7386 or text START
to 678678. You can also contact them through their
These toll-free lines are staffed by people who are trained to help you without
ever knowing your name or seeing your face. The calls are confidential.
Note: In 2020, the FCC established 988 as the new, nationwide,
3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and
mental health crisis counselors. All phone service providers must direct 988 calls
to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022.
Why Do Teens Try to Kill Themselves?
Most teens interviewed after making a suicide attempt say that they did it because
they were trying to escape from a situation that seemed impossible to deal with or
to get relief from really bad thoughts or feelings. They didn't want to die as much
as they wanted to escape from what was going on. And at that particular moment dying
seemed like the only way out.
Some people who end their lives or attempt suicide might be trying to escape feelings
of rejection, hurt, or loss. Others might feel angry, ashamed, or guilty about something.
Some people may be worried about disappointing friends or family members. And some
may feel unwanted, unloved, victimized, or like they're a burden to others.
We all feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions or situations sometimes. But most
people get through it or can put their problems in perspective and find a way to carry
on with determination and hope. So why does one person try suicide when another person
in the same tough situation does not? What makes some people more resilient (better
able to deal with life's setbacks and difficulties) than others? What makes a person
unable to see another way out of a bad situation besides ending his or her life?
The answer to those questions lies in the fact that most people who commit suicide
Depression leads people to
focus mostly on failures and disappointments, to emphasize the negative side of their
situations, and to downplay their own capabilities or worth. Someone with severe depression
can't see the possibility of a good outcome and may believe they will never be happy
or things will never go right for them again.
Depression affects a person's thoughts in such a way that the person doesn't see
when a problem can be overcome.
It's as if the depression puts a filter on the person's thinking that distorts things.
That's why depressed people don't realize that suicide is a permanent solution to
a temporary problem in the same way that other people do. A teen with depression may
feel like there's no other way out of problems, no other escape from emotional pain,
or no other way to communicate a desperate unhappiness.
Sometimes people who feel suicidal may not even realize they are depressed. They're
unaware that it is the depression — not the situation — that's influencing
them to see things in a "there's no way out," "it will never get better," "there's
nothing I can do" kind of way.
When depression lifts because someone gets the proper therapy
or treatment, the distorted thinking is cleared. The person can find pleasure, energy,
and hope again. But while someone is seriously depressed, suicidal thinking is a real
People with a condition called bipolar
disorder are also more at risk for suicide because their condition can cause them
to go through times when they are extremely depressed as well as times when they have
abnormally high or frantic energy (called mania or manic). Both of these extreme phases
of bipolar disorder affect and distort a person's mood, outlook, and judgment. For
people with this condition, it can be a challenge to keep problems in perspective
and act with good judgment.
Teens with alcohol and drug
problems are also more at risk for suicidal thinking and behavior. Alcohol and
some drugs have depressive effects on the brain. Misuse of these substances can bring
on serious depression. That's especially true for some teens who already have a tendency
to depression because of their biology, family history, or other life stressors.
The problem can be made worse because many people who are depressed turn to alcohol
or drugs as an escape. But they may not realize that the depressive effects alcohol
and drugs have on the brain can actually intensify depression in the long run.
Besides their depressive effects, alcohol and drugs affect a person's judgment.
They interfere with the ability to assess risk, make good choices, and think of solutions
to problems. Many suicide attempts occur when someone is under the influence of alcohol
This doesn't mean that everyone who is depressed or who has an alcohol or drug
problem will try to kill themselves, of course. But these conditions — especially
both together — increase a person's risk for suicide.
Suicide Is Not Always Planned
Sometimes a depressed person plans a suicide in advance. Many times, though, suicide
attempts happen impulsively, in a moment of feeling desperately upset. A situation
like a breakup, a big fight with a parent, an unintended pregnancy, being outed by
someone else, or being victimized in any way can cause someone to feel desperately
upset. Often, a situation like this, on top of an existing depression, acts like the
Some people who attempt suicide mean to die and some aren't completely sure they
want to die. For some, a suicide attempt is a way to express deep emotional pain.
They can't say how they feel, so, for them, attempting suicide feels like the only
way to get their message across. Sadly, many people who really didn't mean to kill
themselves end up dead or critically ill.
What Are the Warning Signs of Suicide?
Often, there are signs that someone may be thinking about or planning a suicide
attempt. Here are some of them:
talking about suicide or death in general
talking about "going away"
referring to things they "won't be needing," and giving away possessions
talking about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
pulling away from friends or family and losing the desire to go out
having no desire to take part in favorite things or activities
trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
changes in eating or sleeping habits
self-destructive behaviors (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or cutting,
How Can I Cope With Problems?
Being a teen is not easy. There are many new social, academic, and personal pressures.
And for teens who have other problems to deal with, such as living in violent or abusive environments, life can
feel even harder.
Some teens worry about sexuality
wondering if their feelings and attractions are normal, or if they will be loved and
accepted. Others struggle with body
image and eating problems
— trying to reach an impossible ideal leaves them feeling bad about themselves.
Some teens have learning problems or attention
problems that make it hard for them to succeed in school. They may feel disappointed
in themselves or feel they are a disappointment to others.
These problems can be difficult and draining — and can lead to depression
if they go on too long without relief or support. We all struggle with painful problems
and events at times. How do people get through it without becoming depressed? Part
of it is staying connected to family, friends,
school, faith, and other support networks.
People are better able to cope when they have at least one person who believes
in them, wants the best for them, and in whom they can confide. It also helps to keep
in mind that most problems are temporary and can be overcome.
Ask someone to help you figure out what to do about a problem you're facing.
Work with a therapist or counselor if problems are getting you down and depressed
— or if you don't have a strong support network or feel you can't cope.
Counselors and therapists
can provide emotional support and can help teens build their own coping skills for
dealing with problems. It can also help to join a support network for people who are
going through the same problems — for example, anorexia and body image issues,
living with an alcoholic family
member, or sexuality and sexual health concerns. These groups can help provide
a caring environment where you can talk through problems with people who share your
How Can I Help a Friend?
It is always a good thing to start a conversation with someone you think may be
considering suicide. It allows you to get
help for the person, and just talking about it may help the person feel less alone
and more cared about and understood.
Talking things through also may give the person a chance to consider other solutions
to problems. Most of the time, people who are considering suicide are willing to talk
if someone asks them out of concern and care. Because people who are depressed are
not as able to see answers as well as others, it can help to have someone work with
them in coming up with at least one other way out of a bad situation.
Even if a friend or classmate swears you to secrecy, you must get help as soon
as possible — your friend's life could depend on it. Someone who is seriously
thinking about suicide may have sunk so deeply into an emotional hole that they can't
see that they need help. Tell an adult you trust as soon as possible.
If necessary, you can call a suicide crisis line (such as 1-800-273-8255 or 1-866-488-7386).
These calls are confidential and run by people who are happy to talk to you to help
you figure out what to do.
Sometimes, teens who make a suicide attempt — or who die from suicide —
seem to give no clue beforehand. This can leave loved ones feeling not only grief
stricken but guilty and wondering if they missed something. It is important for
their family members and friends to know that sometimes there is no warning and they
should not blame themselves.
When someone dies by suicide, the people left behind can wrestle with a terrible
emotional pain. Teens who have had a recent loss or crisis or who had a family member
or classmate who died by suicide may be at risk for suicidal thinking and behavior
If you've been close to someone who has attempted or committed suicide, it can
help to talk with a therapist or counselor — someone who is trained in dealing
with this complex issue. Or, you could join a group for survivors where you can share
your feelings and get the support of people who have been in the same situation as