Teen Suicide - Warning Signs

Given the statistics Teri wrote about on Monday, and the risk factors Tamara wrote about yesterday, its is important to know the warning signs.  While there aren’t always outwardly noticeable warning signs that a person is contemplating taking their own life, there can sometimes be signs that point to possible suicidal thoughts or plans. Sometimes you will see one or two. Sometimes there will be many. Sometimes you won’t see any signs until it is too late. Every situation is different and unique. Trust your instincts. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, the chances are, it probably is.
Some of the warning signs to watch for are:
  • A previous suicide attempt
  • Depression, great sadness
  • Changes in academic performance
  • Marked changes in personality and mood (including an uncharacteristic change from a period of depressed or sad mood to one that seems very happy, cheerful and peaceful, for no apparent outward reason. Sometimes this can indicate that a person has made the decision to attempt suicide, and is finally “at peace” with, or have found a “solution” to their pain)
  • Talking about suicide, talking about “going away”, saying that life isn’t worth living, wanting to die, expressing feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Giving away personal possessions, cleaning their room and throwing things out they own
  • Expressing extreme feelings of guilt or shame (feeling like a bad person who doesn’t have the right to live)
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Isolating behavior, such as withdrawing from activities, pulling away from family and friends
  • Overly social or emotional behavior that appears out of place to recent mood and behavior—(e.g., making connections with important friendships or relationships from the past that might be a person’s way of saying goodbye)
  • Changes in eating habits and appetite
  • Changes to sleep patterns (sleeping excessively, not sleeping well, waking early in the morning, waking intermittently during the night)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Having difficulty communicating (being unable to talk or having great difficulty talking)
  • Losing interest in things they previously enjoyed
  • Loss of interest in personal appearance
  • Marks of self-harming, such as scratches, burns, or wounds on the body
  • Sudden marked behavioral changes, such as restlessness or reckless behavior (driving too fast, taking inappropriate risks)
  • Alcohol and Drug use (including abuse of prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, and use of illegal substances)
  • Having a friend or family member who has committed suicide

If you are concerned about a teen who is showing warning signs, please talk to the teen ask them how they feel.  If you feel your teen is in danger, call 1-800-SUICIDE or call 911.  Please check back with us tomorrow as Natalie writes about how to get help for a loved one who is at risk of teen suicide.

Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT  is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapy, family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield