Recognizing the warning signs for teen suicide


April 9, 2019

Early identification of those at risk opens the door for life-saving intervention.


As of 2017, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people (ages 10-19) in Tennessee, with one person in this age group lost to suicide every week, according to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. In Tennessee, 75 deaths were recorded among persons aged 10-19 in 2017.

The number of school-age children and adolescents hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or attempts has more than doubled since 2008, according to a Vanderbilt-led study published in Pediatrics. The study, “Hospitalization for Suicide Ideation or Attempt,” looked at trends in emergency room and inpatient encounters for suicide ideation and attempts in children ages 5-17 years at U.S. children’s hospitals from 2008 to 2015.

These statistics, and more reported since, others underscore the need for early identification of those at risk so they can get the life-saving help they need. Recognition of early warning signs that indicate someone is suicidal can help.

Warning Signs:

  • Talking about suicide, expressing thought about ending one’s life;
  • Withdrawing from friends and family;
  • Changes in behavior at home or school, especially changes in the quality of schoolwork or lower grades;
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness;
  • Rebellious or ‘acting-out’ behaviors;
  • Alcohol or substance abuse;
  • Previous attempts or experiencing the loss of a friend/family member by suicide increases risk.

Having suicidal thoughts is not a “normal” part of adolescence. If a teenager that you know has any of these warning signs, and especially if he or she has talked about suicide, take it seriously and reach out for help.


Some of these resources in Tennessee include: