Teen Suicide - Risk Factors

 Now that yesterday's blog talked about statistics and facts. Let's talk about what makes a teen at risk for suicide. There are times in a teen's life where certain things can cause them to be more at risk for, or vulnerable to suicide. Some of these include: Teen Depression

What makes some teens start to think about suicide—or even worse, plan to do something with the intention of ending their own life? One of the biggest factors to teen suicide is Depression: Most teens who have depression think about suicide, and between 15% and 30% of teens with serious depression who think about or contemplate suicide, go on to make a suicide attempt. Hormonal changes, as well as sleep cycles, which are both changing drastically in adolescence, have a large impact on mood and can make teens more vulnerable to depression. While most teens experience some depression as a passing mood (for example, feeling sadness, disappointment, grief, or loneliness as a normal reaction to some of the struggles of life), sometimes depression doesn’t lift after a few hours or a few days. It is when the depressed feeling lasts for more days than not, and begins to feel too overwhelming and heavy to bear, that a teen crosses over into an emotional state that has a high risk of suicide. Depression distorts a person’s viewpoint, allowing them to focus only on their failures, shortcomings, and disappointments and to exaggerate the negative things. The depressed thinking is what convinces someone there is nothing to live for, and makes them believe the world is a better place without them—even though it is all untrue! The positive news is that depression is highly treatable with the right help. The hopelessness they feel, and the hurt and despair can be healed. It is important to encourage our youth to talk about how they are feeling, to model this kind of communication to them, and to provide them with the information on options for help available to them.

Substance Abuse Problems

Alcohol and some drugs have depressive effects on the brain. Misuse of substances can bring on serious depression and subsequent suicidal ideation. This risk is even higher in those who might be prone to depression because of their biology, family history, or current stress level. Many suicide attempts occur when a teen is under the influence of a substance, as the alcohol or drugs alter a person’s judgement and ability to look at risks, think of solutions to problems, and make good choices.

Other risk factors include but are not limited to:

  • Intense Anger issues
  • Impulsivity
  • Body image issues and those with eating disorders
  • Intense and prolonged self esteem issues
  • Having experienced a recent loss (e.g., divorce, death of friend or family member, death of a pet, breakup of a dating relationship, being “outed” or rejected by a group of peers or a friend)
  • Having experienced a crisis (e.g., unintended pregnancy, being harmed by abuse or rape)
  • Teens with a relative or family member who have committed suicide in the past
  • The anniversary date of a tragic event
  • Experiencing great difficulty in school performance (e.g., failing exams, fears of not passing a grade level)
  • Having direct access to guns

If you are noticing your teen experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend you seek help immediately. You can call 1-800-SUICIDE, or call your teen's school to speak with their guidance counselor, and you can also call 911. We also encourage you to speak directly to your teen and ask how they are feeling and your concerns as well. Direct communication (without placing judgement) is best. Tomorrow Alexa will discuss Warning Signs & What to look for in a teen. Later in the week Natalie will go over "How to get Help". , along with "How to Cope" with suicide if you've experienced this in your life.

Thank you for reading, have a wonderful week.


Written by: Tamara Wilhelm MA, LMHC

*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling  at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.