Youth Suicide

Youth Suicide
Get Help
Warning Signs
Facts & Stats
Risk Factors
Healthcare Professionals
Mapping out the causes of suicide in teenagers and children
Experts Release Consensus Derived List of Warning Signs for Youth Suicide
Related issues: 
Suicide, Depression, Crisis Text Line 741741

Now a word from Pink


Youth Suicide

Together We Can Save Lives!

Suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death in our nation today. We lose an average of more than 100 young people each week to this tragedy that can be prevented.

How can it be prevented you may ask? The Jason Foundation, Inc. believes that education is the key to prevention. The Jason Foundation’s programs and services are in response to this belief. Our nation should be familiar with the warning signs associated with suicide, suicide facts & statistics, and how to find help for at-risk youth. Together, we can save lives!

Remember: Never be reluctant to get involved and always take any child/adolescent’s desire or intent to harm themselves seriously. If you suspect a young person of suicidal ideation, get them to professional help immediately. Suicide is Preventable

Get Help

If you or someone you know are experiencing a crisis, call 911.

If you or a friend need to talk with a counselor for help or for resources available in your area, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or the Crisis Text Line 741741, free, 24-hour hotlines available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call will be routed to the nearest crisis center to you.

Warning Signs

Four out of five teens who attempt suicide give clear warning signs.

Warning Signs of suicidal ideation include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Talking about suicide
  • Making statements about feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • A deepening depression
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Taking unnecessary risks or exhibiting self-destructive behavior
  • Out of character behavior
  • A loss of interest in the things one cares about
  • Visiting or calling people one cares about
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order
  • Giving prized possessions away

Along with these warning signs, there are certain Risk Factors that can elevate the possibility of suicidal ideation.

  • Perfectionist personalities
  • Gay and Lesbian youth
  • Learning disabled youth
  • Loners
  • Youth with low self- esteem
  • Depressed youth
  • Students in serious trouble
  • Abused, Molested or Neglected Youth
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Parental history of violence, substance abuse, or divorce

You may be the first and last person to see these signs in a young person.

Chances are, if you do nothing, you will regret it for the rest of your life.

Facts & Stats

For middle and high school age youth (ages 12-18), suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death. *

For college age youth (ages 18-22), suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death. *

Over-all, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for our youth ages 10-24. *


In ages 10-14, we have seen an alarming increase of more than 150% in suicides since 1981 , making it the third leading cause of death for that age group.

More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.

Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12.

Four out of Five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

The Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System (YRBS) is a survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that includes national, state, and local school-based representative samples of 9th through 12th grade students. The purpose is to monitor priority health risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth in the United States. The surveys are conducted every two years to determine the prevalence of these health risk behaviors. Behaviors that contribute to unhealthy lifestyles and those that indicate possible depression and/or suicidal ideation are included. Click here to see the full report.

Risk Factors

Suicide does not typically have a sudden onset. There are a number of stressors that can contribute to a youth’s anxiety and unhappiness, increasing the possibility of a suicide attempt. A number of them are described below.

Depression, Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

One of the most telling risk factors for youth is mental illness. Mental or addictive disorders are associated with 90% of suicides. One in ten youth suffer from mental illness serious enough to be impaired, yet fewer than 20 percent receive treatment. In fact, 60% of those who complete suicide suffer from depression. Alcohol and drug use, which clouds judgment, lowers inhibitions, and worsens depression, are associated with 50-67% of suicides.

Aggression and Fighting

Recent research has identified a connection between interpersonal violence and suicide. Suicide is associated with fighting for both males and females, across all ethnic groups, and for youth living in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Home Environment

Within the home, a lack of cohesion, high levels of violence and conflict, a lack of parental support and alienation from and within the family.

Community Environment

Youth with high levels of exposure to community violence are at serious risk for self-destructive behavior. This can occur when a youth models his or her own behavior after what is experienced in the community. Additionally, more youth are growing up without making meaningful connections with adults, and therefore are not getting the guidance they need to help them cope with their daily lives.

School Environment

Youth who are struggling with classes, perceive their teachers as not understanding them or caring about them, or have poor relationships with their peers have increased vulnerability.

Previous Attempts

Youth who have attempted suicide are at risk to do it again. In fact, they are eight times more likely than youth who have never attempted suicide to make another suicide attempt.

Cultural Factors

Changes in gender roles and expectations, issues of conformity and assimilation, and feelings of isolation and victimization can all increase the stress levels and vulnerability of individuals. Additionally, in some cultures (particularly Asian and Pacific cultures), suicide may be seen as a rational response to shame.

Family History/Stresses

A history of mental illness and suicide among immediate family members place youth at greater risk for suicide. Exacerbating these circumstances are changes in family structure such as death, divorce, remarriage, moving to a new city, and financial instability.


Self-mutilation or self-harm behaviors include head banging, cutting, burning, biting, erasing, and digging at wounds. These behaviors are becoming increasingly common among youth, especially female youth. While self-injury typically signals the occurrence of broader problems, the reason for this behavior can vary from peer group pressure to severe emotional disturbance. Although help should be sought for any individual who is causing self-harm, an appropriate response is crucial. Because most self-mutilation behaviors are not suicide attempts, it is important to be cautious when reaching out to the youth and not to make assumptions.

Situational Crises

Approximately 40% of youth suicides are associated with an identifiable precipitating event, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a valued relationship, parental divorce, or sexual abuse. Typically, these events coincide with other risk factors.

Mapping out the causes of suicide in teenagers and children

Just before Christmas 2015, child psychiatrist Daniel Nelson noticed an unusual number of suicidal kids in the hospital emergency room.

A 14-year-old girl with a parent addicted to opioids tried to choke herself with a seat belt. A 12-year-old transgender child hurt himself after being bullied. And a steady stream of kids arrived from the city’s west side, telling him they knew other kids — at school, in their neighborhoods — who had also tried to die.

“I think there’s an increase in suicidal kids in Cincinnati,” Nelson told a colleague. “We need to start mapping this out.”

So Nelson and his colleagues collected the addresses of 300 children admitted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with suicidal behavior over three months in early 2016, looking for patterns. Almost instantly, a disturbing one emerged: Price Hill, a poor community with a high rate of opioid overdoses, was home to a startling number of suicidal kids.

“This is who is dying from opiates — people in their 20s and 30s. Think about what that population is,” Nelson said. “It’s parents.”

Nelson says there may be a connection between the opioid epidemic and the increased risk of suicide in teenagers and children. (Luke Sharrett for The Washington Post)

Now Nelson is working with county coroners across the nation to try to corroborate his theory, that trauma from the nation’s opioid epidemic could help explain an extraordinary increase in suicide among American children. Since 2007, the rate of suicide has doubled among children 10 to 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24. The suicide rate among older teenage girls hit a 40-year high in 2015, according to newly released data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Cincinnati has been particularly hard hit. In 2015, five children died from suicide in Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located. Last year, 13 children under 18 were lost to suicide — a rate nearly three times the national average. This year, nine kids have died by suicide, a majority of them under 15. The youngest, a resident of Price Hill, was 8 years old.

Nelson, who has been practicing for two decades, says many of his patients come from families with addiction problems. In a program he runs for preschoolers who have been severely abused, over 60 percent have an opioid-addicted parent.

“At any given time, at least 25 percent of my hospitalized kids have a parent actively struggling with addiction,” Nelson said. “Early childhood trauma has been proven to set the stage for a lot of mental and physical illness. It’s a pretty simple scale.”

The epiphany about Price Hill came unexpectedly, when he saw a map of overdoses in Hamilton County. The overdoses clustered in the same places as his suicidal kids. “They laid over each other almost exactly,” he said.

“We do worry that a neighborhood with a high rate of opioid overdoses is also seeing this suicide cluster,” said Marilyn Crumpton, Cincinnati’s interim health commissioner. In particular, she is concerned about the increasing number of children being orphaned by the opioid epidemic and the despair it is causing in communities. “It’s very easy to see the relationship.”

‘You feel like you’re failing’

Price Hill overlooks the basin of downtown Cincinnati. Once a buzzing, wealthy suburb with its own cable railway, it is now pockmarked with shuttered businesses and boarded-up homes.

The Washington Post's Moriah Balingit explains why some educators and psychologists are saying the show about teen suicide should not be watched by young people. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

Nelson drove a reporter to Carson Elementary School, and its playground was desolate during summer break.

“I’m thinking if I live in a community where my friends’ parents are dying, if I’m in a class of 25 with 15 families challenged by addiction, even if my family isn’t directly challenged, I suddenly become affected,” he said. “Kids are coming in with all these traumatic experiences. Resources are stretched. Teachers aren’t able to teach the same. It could be a contagion effect in a community.”

In January, 8-year-old Gabriel Taye, a third-grader at Carson, died by suicide at his home in Price Hill. He had been bullied by kids at the school.

The coroner initially asked police to investigate the death as a murder because she didn’t think an 8-year-old could hang himself. Now, she was trying to figure out from Gabriel’s iPad where he learned how to do it.

“They called me in when Gabriel died,” Nelson said. “It’s the youngest kid who completed suicide that I can remember in a long while.”

Nelson drove a few blocks to Western Hills High, a 1,200-student school that had two suicides last year: a 16-year-old sophomore boy and a girl who had just finished school. In March, the school lost another teen. About a dozen of the suicidal kids on Nelson’s map went to this school, which shares grounds and a medical clinic with Dater High, which had another student die of suicide recently.

“They’ve had four kids that died of suicide in the last two years between the schools,” Nelson said. “Across the street from here, there is a junior high called Midway, where a 12-year-old died last year.”

Inside Western Hills, a group of students were painting the long wall by the school gym gold. Rihanna blared from a boombox.

Nelson walked into a classroom where a strike team addressing the school’s suicide problem was seated at a long table.

Susan Shelton, a founder of MindPeace, a youth mental-health organization that has brought professional mental-health services to nearly 100 Cincinnati schools over the past 15 years, was helping train school staffers to spot childhood trauma — a strong predictor of future depression and suicide risk.

Others around the table represented Lighthouse, a youth and family service agency whose psychologists and counselors work with students out of a room just down this corridor.

Nelson had met with the group this spring, when they raised the alarm about students reporting suicidal thoughts. He’d shown his suicide and opioid overdose maps on a large-screen television. “They got it immediately,” he said.

Weeks after that meeting, Western Hills lost another teenager to suicide.

“The worst thing a principal can face on any given day is to come into their school building and find out one of the students has committed suicide,” said Kenneth Jump, the school’s former principal.

Nelson said: “When a child dies, everybody is affected. No matter how hard you try, you feel like you’re failing.”

Suicide contagion

One of Nelson’s patients, Samantha Potter, came to his clinic at age 12, after the first of two suicide attempts and two years after her father killed himself.

“We were celebrating my 10th birthday at Grandma’s house when my dad passed away from suicide,” Samantha said over tea in a bookshop cafe just across the river from Cincinnati in Florence, Ky.

“When they told us, we were sitting together on the love seat,” her sister Emma said. “I remember we held hands because we were scared.”

Suicide — especially among children — can be contagious. Research suggests that about 5 percent of youth suicides are influenced by contagion from suicidal peers or cultural depictions of suicide. That’s one thing that worried Nelson about his patients in Price Hill and across the region.

After she attempted suicide, Samantha said, “that night I slept with my mom and had horrible nightmares. I didn’t know what to say to the nurses and doctors. I was terrified. Because when you’re trying to commit suicide, some people forget this, but there’s still a part of you that doesn’t want to. Not only are you scared of dying, but you’re scared of yourself. You’re scared of what’s possible at that moment in time.”

After Sam was diagnosed and treated for post-traumatic stress disorder in her early teens and became more comfortable speaking out about suicide, she turned into a magnet for others in crisis.

“Suicide notes, calls for help started falling out of my locker,” she said. “Some said, ‘I have pains in my chest from anxiety.’ Others would tell me they were cutting themselves. Some would just say, ‘So-and-so needs a friend.’?”

Now 19 and just starting college, Sam has an armory of coping skills, and she started Rob’s Kids, named after her dad, to help other children deal with their trauma.

Like Nelson, she’d been puzzling over the cause of this tidal wave of depression and suicide among her peers. “Multiple classmates of mine at school had tried,” she said. Emma, who is 17, nodded in agreement.

“Have you seen that show ‘13 Reasons Why’?” Sam asked. She was incensed about the series. The Netflix TV show about a high school teenager dying by suicide has become the focus of alarm for school superintendents and doctors.

Their fear is that it will stoke the problem of youth suicide through contagion, particularly among kids already struggling with depression. A study published in July found a 19 percent increase in Internet searches about suicide, including “how to commit suicide,” after the series debuted.

24 funerals and two weddings

In addition to his pediatric practice at the children’s hospital, Nelson runs an addiction clinic that serves poor families. The waiting room is crammed.

One patient, a father addicted to opioids, had walked for more than two hours from Kentucky to be there. An anxious couple were waiting to get a prescription and ask advice on what to do about their child, who had been taken away by protective services.

A young mother in recovery chastised her toddlers, who were happily exploring the office on all fours. “Can I give them a C-R-A-C-K-E-R today?” Nelson asked with a smile.

Then he walked out to greet the next family.

“I encourage them to bring and talk about their children,” he said, during a short breather between patients. “Treating the addiction helps reduce psychosocial stress for the kids.”

One of Nelson’s patients, Scott Emmon, was born and raised in Price Hill, where he now works in security. He’s been clean for about a year.

Last year, his brother died of a heroin overdose. He left behind two daughters, a 19-year-old who attended Western Hills and a 4-year-old who is now in foster care.

“I’ve been to 24 funerals and only two weddings,” said Emmon, 37. “It’s so sad to say, but it’s the truth. I see people die all the time. It’s like a normal thing now.”

Price Hill locals have seen the epidemic of overdoses in their neighborhood, and many worry about how it is affecting their children.

Jeremy Bauer, parish operations manager at Holy Family Church in East Price Hill, witnessed three overdoses within the span of three weeks — a woman slumped across the street from the church; a second woman curled up in a McDonald’s parking lot when he was with his two children; and a man in an alleyway behind the church.

In June, Bauer decided to hand out kits of Narcan — an antidote to acute opioid overdose — to families at a church community event, in an effort to combat the heroin epidemic in the area.

Bauer says kids are certainly aware of what they are seeing. “They see the overdoses. They hear about it — on the news, on Facebook. They see the squads,” he said. “I can be out in my front yard with my kids working on my flower beds, I see people walk up and down and I can see they’re high.”

He continued: “Imagine being a young person in this community who looks around and sees this devastation, people in the throes of addiction, people slumped over or high on the street. That’s got to sap their energy and passion. If they’re living in this community, where walking down the street they see so many people trapped in a lifestyle, how can they have an ambition to be something bigger?

“How can we expect them to process it when we can’t even process it as adults?”

Healthcare Professionals

The following signs may mean that a youth is at risk for suicide, particularly in youth who have attempted suicide in the past:

Risk is greater if the warning sign is:

  • new and/or
  • has increased and
  • possibly related to an anticipated or actual painful event, loss, or change.

Finally, the presence of more than one of the following warning signs may increase a youth's risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors in the near future.

Youth Suicide Warning Signs

1. Talking about or making plans for suicide.
2. Expressing hopelessness about the future.
3. Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress.
4. Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:

  • Withdrawal from or changing in social connections/situations
  • Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
  • Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
  • Recent increased agitation or irritability

How to Respond

If you notice any of these warning signs in anyone, you can help!

1. Ask if they are ok or if they are having thoughts of suicide
2. Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior
3. Listen attentively and non-judgmentally
4. Reflect what they share and let them know they have been heard
5. Tell them they are not alone
6. Let them know there are treatments available that can help
7. If you are or they are concerned, guide them to additional professional help


Experts Release Consensus Derived List of Warning Signs for Youth Suicide

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for youth 15-24 years of age and the 3rd leading cause for 10-14 year olds in the United States. Much needed attention has been given to developing suicide awareness and prevention programs for youth, in particular through the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grant program, an initiative supported by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), however a solid understanding and agreement on the warning signs for youth suicide has never been accomplished.

To address this gap in knowledge, a panel of national and international experts convened to resolve this problem and help the public better understand the way youth think, feel, and behave prior to making life-threatening suicide attempts and inform them about how to effectively respond. The main goal was to determine what changes immediately preceded suicide attempts or deaths that are supported by research and rooted in clinical practice by experts and for the first time we can now confidently put forward that these are the warning signs that a young person might be at risk of suicide.

The newly agreed upon list of warning signs and additional resources for how to respond to recognized risk was released today and can be found at:

1.Talking about or making plans for suicide.

2.Expressing hopelessness about the future.

3.Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress.

4.Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:

Withdrawal from or changing in social connections/situations

Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)

Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context

Recent increased agitation or irritability

Prior to the meeting, the experts reviewed and analyzed all available literature and conducted a survey of youth suicide attempt survivors, as well as those who lost a youth to suicide. The panel was then convened and consisted of researchers with extensive experience working with suicidal youth, public health officials, clinicians with decades of individual experience helping suicidal youth, school teachers, and various other stakeholders including individuals representing national organizations focused on suicide prevention. Following the consensus meeting, focus groups with youth and adults were held to gain their input on the findings and dissemination plans. The following organizations were involved.

  • Aevidum
  • American Association of Suicidology
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University Medical Center
  • George Mason University
  • Indian Health Service
  • National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
  • The Trevor Project
  • Thomas Jefferson University
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Colorado, Denver Veterans Administration
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Weill Cornell Medical College


Dr. Dan Reidenberg at or (952) 946-7998 or Dr. Michelle Cornette at

Source: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

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