Youth Suicide Prevention

Youth Suicide Prevention

Post Date: Apr 26, 2023
Behavioral Health

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 for 24/7 mental health support. If someone is in danger of harming themself or others, call 911.

With suicide as the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 14 in 2020, leading pediatric care organizations declared it a national emergency in 2021. And youth suicide in our Montana communities is a scary problem. It can be hard to know the right thing to do if you’re worried that someone you know is thinking about or might attempt suicide. Here are some strategies to help prevent youth suicide in our families and communities.

Make sure they have access to resources

Even if you don’t think the teens in your life are at risk of dying by suicide, make sure they know how to get help. It can have impacts beyond just them. Let them know they can turn to you for help and that they should bring concerns to an adult if they’re worried about their—or a friend’s—mental health.

But also educate them on the 988 lifeline or the 741741 crisis text line, so they can use those or share them if needed. Show them that their primary care provider is someone they can talk to and that they can access behavioral health counseling if they need it. The more resources they have, the sooner they can get assistance if it helps them.

Watch for warning signs

Many risk factors can impact youth suicide, so there’s no one way to tell if a child or teen is at risk of making an attempt. But by watching for warning signs, you can be ready to act if you see that the young people in your life may be at risk.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these warning signs include:

  • Talking about killing oneself, feeling hopeless, feeling like a burden, or having no reason to live
  • Mood changes, including depression, anxiety, and agitation

Behavior changes:

  • Increased substance use
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Irritability

If you notice one or more of these warning signs, it’s a good time to open a conversation. Of course, few kids haven’t been irritable or had irregular sleep patterns at one point or another. So that doesn’t mean that every child or teen who shows signs on this list is contemplating suicide. And there may be kids at risk who don’t show these warning signs. But watch for them, and be ready to talk if you see them.

Don’t be afraid to ask

It’s common for people to worry that asking direct questions might push someone to take harmful action in a challenging mental health situation. But asking, “You aren’t thinking of hurting yourself, are you?” or “Are you considering suicide?” can actually help. You can also share what changes you’ve observed in them and let them know you’re concerned. This is a way to show support and get them help faster.

Encourage community connection

When young people are going through a hard time, the more caring adults and peers they have in their life, the more extensive their support network is. These are the people who can notice and support teens when they’re showing some of those warning signs. Community connection can help ease certain mental health conditions that contribute to suicide as well. These can include churches and other faith-based organizations, clubs, group counseling, sports teams, and others.

Community Health Partners provides behavioral health services at clinics in Gallatin and Park counties. And school-based health centers at Belgrade Middle School, Bozeman High School, and Gallatin High School all offer resources to help support young people in the community. Get in touch to find the care you need.