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It's the nightmare of parents. When a teenager threatens to take his or her life--or succeeds--parents agonize over "what went wrong." Friends wish they had said something sooner or taken suicide talk more seriously. And teachers and other caring adults worry that other teens will follow suit. When a teenager looses a friend to suicide, they themselves become at risk for the same act.

Each year 12 of every 100,000 teens aged 15 to 19 commit suicide, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Suicide attempts often go hand-in-hand with other problems such as chemical use, physical or sexual abuse, family problems and low self-esteem. Research shows that 20 to 36 percent of suicide victims have a history of alcohol abuse or were drinking shortly before their suicides, according to the Seventh Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health.

Sixteen teens commit suicide every day. But these teens are not just statistics. They were depressed, confused young men and women who didn't know how or where to get help. Many people have suicidal thoughts at some time during their lives. This is normal, as long as those thoughts don't linger. A person with suicidal thoughts will exhibit one or more of these warning signs. Sometimes, the person contemplating suicide will exhibit most of these warning signs, but not to just one person. If you, or someone you know exhibits any of these warning signs, please contact a counselor, teacher, priest, rabbi, minister, parent, or friend. Don't assume you can help them by yourself ~ get help! If you see these signs in yourself, get help!

Warning Signs

Abrupt changes in personality
Giving away possessions
Previous suicide attempt
Ending of a romance
Inability to tolerate frustration
Use of drugs and/or alcohol
Eating disturbances, significant weight changes
Sleeping disturbances
Unwillingness or inability to communicate
Sexual promiscuity
Extreme or extended boredom
Inability to concentrate
Accident prone (carelessness)
Unusually long grief reaction
Unusual sadness, discouragement, and loneliness
Hostile behavior
Neglect of academic work
Family disruptions - divorce, trauma, losing loved one
Running away from home or truancy from school
Rebelliousness - reckless behavior
With drawl from activities that they love
Talk of suicide or of killing oneself

Prevention steps for parents and teachers can include honest discussion of the teen's problems and feelings; making it clear that talking about thoughts and feelings is okay; acknowledging the teen's helpless feelings and offering help; closely monitoring the young person's behavior; evaluating the seriousness of suicidal feelings and getting professional help if suicide seems likely; and knowing what resources are available (crisis hot lines, counseling, support groups).

It's also important for parents and other caring adults to serve as role models in handling stress and other uncomfortable life situations. Help teens accept failure, take all suicide talk seriously, and offer help to teens struggling with problems that often lead to suicide.

Teens can also set up a peer counseling service through their schools. Teens can sometimes help a depressed teen in ways that others cannot by working closely with the school counselor.

Suicide Links
Yellow Ribbon Program
Yellow Ribbon Program

Youth Suicide Prevention Program
Depression And Suicide
The Jason Foundation
Suicide Help Lines
Yellow Ribbon Project
Things You Should Know
Suicide and the School
Suicide Information and Resources
Survivors of Suicide

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