Signs of Suicidal Behavior in Children and Teens

Suicidal behavior in children and teens is a serious issue that needs to be addressed promptly. Young people who show suicidal behavior often struggle with emotional distress, and it can be difficult to identify the warning signs. It is, therefore, essential to understand the signs of suicidal behavior in children and teens so that appropriate support and intervention can be provided.

What is Suicidal Behavior in Children and Teens?

Suicidal behavior refers to any behavior that indicates a person is considering or planning suicide. In children and teens, this behavior can be difficult to identify since they may not have the maturity or language to express their feelings effectively. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people aged 15-29 years globally, and there are visible symptoms that can indicate suicidal behavior.

Risk Factors for Suicidal Behavior in Children and Teens

Several factors can contribute to suicidal behavior in children and teens. These factors include mental health illness, drug and alcohol abuse, family history of suicide, and access to firearms/weapons. Unresolved trauma, low self-esteem, and bullying are also common risk factors. It is crucial to identify these risk factors to understand the need for providing adequate support for the affected children and teens.

Identifying Signs of Suicidal Behavior in Children and Teens

It is essential to recognize early signs of suicidal behavior in children and teens before it is too late. A child or teen who is considering suicide would show some of the following signs:

1. Changes in Mood

A child or teen who is considering suicide might display sudden changes in mood, such as sadness or anxiety, for prolonged periods. They might display a sudden loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, lack of motivation, or an overall sense of hopelessness. They might also display increased drug and alcohol use or isolation from friends and family.

2. Identifying Suicidal Statements

If a child or teen repeatedly comments on suicide or death, this is a warning sign. It may not be an outright expression of an intent to commit suicide, but it can be a cry for help. It is crucial to take it seriously and provide appropriate support.

3. Risk-Taking Behavior

Engaging in risky behavior is another sign of suicidal behavior in children and teens. This risky behavior might include reckless driving, drug and alcohol abuse, or self-harm. The behavior might be indicative that the young person is seeking new ways to experience emotions since they have not had the opportunity to develop any positive coping mechanisms yet.

4. Giving Away of Possessions

A child or teen who suddenly gives away their favorite things, such as books, clothes, or music, is a warning sign. They might also leave notes or become unexpectedly preoccupied with getting their affairs in order, such as finishing an apology letter.

5. Changes in Sleeping and Eating patterns

A child or teen who suddenly experiences changes in their sleeping and eating patterns might be displaying suicidal behavior. This change could be a shift to excessive sleep or insomnia, a lack of appetite or overeating, which should be taken seriously since these symptoms suggest depression, anxiety, or other mental illness.

Why Early Intervention is Critical

Since suicide is preventable, early intervention is critical. Those who display signs of suicidal behavior must be provided with intensive support and care to reduce the risk of self-harm. It is also essential to consider the young person’s perspective and work towards addressing their specific needs. Studies have shown that intervention programs can reduce the risk of suicide in children and teens. Parents, caregivers, and educators should also work together to create supportive environments, safe spaces for young people to talk about their feelings, and remove any means of harmful intent, including firearms, sharp objects, or harmful substances.

The Role of Parents, Caregivers, and Educators

Parents, caregivers, and educators play a vital role in identifying and supporting children and teens who display suicidal behavior. They should be willing to listen, using open-ended questions and avoid judgmental statements. If a child or teen discloses suicidal thoughts to you, show empathy, reassure them that you care, and ask if they have a specific plan of action. It is also essential to seek help from a mental health professional who can provide appropriate diagnosis, treatment, and support.


Suicidal behavior is a serious issue affecting children and teens globally. It is, therefore, essential to recognize the signs early and provide appropriate support and care. Identifying the risk factors and taking measures to mitigate them can help to prevent occurrences of suicidal behavior. Parents, caregivers, educators, and other concerned parties must work together to provide a supportive environment for young people to express their feelings and identify appropriate support channels. Seeking early intervention and treatment can make a significant difference in preventing suicidal behavior in children and teens.


FAQs: Signs of Suicidal Behavior in Children and Teens

What are the common signs of suicidal behavior in children and teens?

Some common warning signs of suicidal behavior in children and teens includes talking or writing about suicide, withdrawal from social activities, expressing hopelessness or worthlessness, sudden changes in behavior or mood, giving away prized possessions, substance abuse, and self-destructive behavior.

What should parents and caregivers do if they suspect a child or teen is exhibiting signs of suicidal behavior?

Parents and caregivers should take any signs of suicidal behavior seriously and seek immediate professional help. It is important to have open and honest communication with the child or teen, express concern and willingness to help, and provide them with ongoing unconditional support. They should also contact a mental health professional or crisis hotline for assistance.

How can suicide in children and teens be prevented?

Preventing suicide in children and teens requires a collaborative effort by parents, caregivers, mental health professionals, and the broader community. Some effective strategies include identifying and treating mental health conditions, developing coping skills and building resilience, providing a safe and supportive environment, and limiting access to lethal means. It is also important to educate children and teens about suicide prevention and encourage them to seek help when they or someone they know is struggling.


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