Suicide Prevention for Youth
Families and caregivers play a vital role in suicide prevention for young people. It Is important to check in regularly and talk about mental health with loved ones so they are aware that the support is there if they start to struggle.
Some groups may be at an increased risk for suicide including those exploring their sexual and gender identities, black youth, immigrants and youth of color as well as those experiencing bullying.
Myth: Asking a person if they are suicidal will make things worse, or make them think about suicide.
Fact: Talking openly about mental health helps decrease the stigma and encourages others to reach out in times of need.
What does a youth at risk for suicide look like?
There are notable differences in the way some children express their sadness and suicidal thoughts. Some children may show their emotions outwardly (crying, yelling, acting out) while it may be more typical for some youth to internalize their concerns and fears rather than externalizing them (self doubt, shame, self hate). Signs/symptoms, changes in functioning
- Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
- Hopeless, expresses no desire or reason to live, lack of purpose
- Increased rage, anger or revenge seeking behaviors
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities
- Dramatic changes in mood and functioning
Remember: Engaging in Self Injurious Behaviors do not necessarily relate to suicidality
How do I respond?
Things to Do
- Identify if there has been a recent suicide or traumatic death in their life
- Talk to the youth about the changes you have noticed; tell them you are concerned and want to help
- Listen when they share their struggles; together, determine what is needed support or solutions, or both
- Express empathy for their situation and how they are feeling
- Determine an emergency plan with supportive people /contact information
- Ask them directly if they are having suicidal thoughts:
Are you having thoughts of suicide?
Are you thinking about killing yourself?
- If yes, determine if there is a plan with follow up questions like:
When do you plan to do this?
Do you have a plan?
Have you consumed drugs or alcohol?
Do you have access to (weapons, medications, sharp objects, etc)? If so, remove dangerous items from their environment
Things to Avoid
- Do not use guilt or threats to prevent suicide
- Do not shame them for asking for help or expressing how they are feeling
- Do not agree to keep suicidal ideas or intentions a secret
- Do not leave an actively suicidal person alone
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, CALL 1-800- 273-8255 or TEXT “GOT5” to 741741 for immediate assistance. Learn more about using the lifeline by clicking here.
For Additional Information
- Visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and mhanys.org/explore/what-to-do-in-a-crisis/
- Bullying Prevention Resources: Creating a Safe Space- Bullying Prevention E-book
- PSA for families and caregivers (coming soon) From the NYS Office of Mental Health, the Suicide Prevention Center of NY, and MHANYS
Family Education Webinars
When do I call 911?
- A plan has been identified
- If you believe your loved one is suicidal, seek professional support immediately
- If the person is a risk to their own safety or the safety of others – contact local mobile crisis supports, who can provide additional support and assistance to de escalate and stabilize a situation to help provide safety and therapeutic intervention during a crisis
- There is an immediate threat or concern for a persons safety
I called for help – What do emergency responders need to know?
When calling for support during a crisis, it is helpful for responders to have the following information:
- If the person has access to a weapon, method of self harm
- Is off any prescribed medications
- Has recently disengaged in mental health treatment
- Has written a note or has recently began giving away their possessions
- If there was a recent loss or trauma , or anniversary of an event
- Is using or misusing drugs, alcohol or medications
- Local Mobile Crisis – use our NY County Resources page
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-272-TALK (8255)
- 1-800-799-4889 for hearing and speech impaired
- National Youth Crisis Hotline – 1-800-442-HOPE (4673)
- Treatment Referral Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP
Resources for Schools
- A Guide to Suicide Prevention in New York Schools From Suicide Prevention Center of NY
- Suicide Prevention in The Classroom: best practices for youth suicide prevention education From Suicide Prevention Center of NY
- Model School District Policy for Suicide Prevention (second edition) From American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American School Counselor Association, National Association of School Psychologists, & Trevor Project