Having knowledge of suicide warning signs is the first step in being able to help an adolescent in need. Contrary to common belief, about 80% of those who attempt suicide do exhibit signs. Several of these signs together may indicate it's time to talk openly with the individual you are concerned about.
It is important to remember, however, that even healthy teens exhibit some of these signs from time to time. No one single sign is a sure indicator of suicide. Look for a pattern and trust your instincts!
Direct statements like the following need immediate attention:
"I want to die"
"I don't want to live anymore"
"Life sucks and I want to get out"
Indirect statements can also give clues:
"I want to go to sleep and never wake up"
"They'll be sorry when I'm gone"
"Soon the pain will be over"
"I hate myself"
Lack of energy
Acting bored or disinterested
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Silence or withdrawal
Anger and destructive behavior
Less interest in usual activities
Giving away prized possessions
Poor school performance
Dwelling on death in creative activities such as music, poetry and drawing
Difficulty sleeping or changing sleep patterns
Increased thrill seeking and risky behaviors
Increased use of drugs and alcohol
Change in appearance and cleanliness
Change in appetite or eating habits
Previous suicide attempts by a family member or friend
Problems at school
Major family change
The most vulnerable times for youth suicides are during "rites of passage," including graduation, anniversaries and birthdays. Many teens also commit suicide a short interval after a disciplinary crisis or after a rejection or humiliation.
Issues surrounding homosexuality are worth special notice. Research has shown that 30% of all completed youth suicides are related to issues of sexual identity.
Gun safety is also a crucial precaution that every gun owner should practice. Statistics show that the risk of suicide is five times greater if there's a gun in the home. Basic safety includes locking the guns and ammunition in separate containers - Empty It Out & Lock It Up!
(Warning Signs taken from presentation developed by Youth Crisis Stabilization Program, Community Health and Counseling Services, Bangor, Maine.)
(If you are in Maine and are in a crisis now, please call the confidential statewide crisis hotline at 1-888-568-1112. If you are outside the state of Maine, Please call your local crisis response service or 911. If you are in the need of Acadia Services, please call 973-6100 or 1-800-640-1211 and ask for the Access Center.)