Teens and Suicide Prevention

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says each year, more than 41,000 people die by suicide.

teens in high school

Last week I went to a local high school to talk with students about mental health. I’m a presenter for NAMI’s in-school program, “Ending the Silence.”

My co-presenter and I spoke to two classes, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. When our first presentation ended, we noticed the teens looked almost stunned. During the question and answer period, no one wanted to say a word. It took some gentle nudging for them to ask us anything.

Then we thought about it… These were incoming freshmen, brand new to high school. Classes started two weeks before. They probably weren’t comfortable yet with their teacher, let alone their classmates.

And they’d just sat through an hour of us talking about a subject that isn’t usually spoken about so directly and openly.

It was a lot to take in.

The students heard about anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, ADHD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They learned the warning signs of mental illness, and what to do if they notice those symptoms in themselves or a friend.

We had a straightforward discussion about suicide and the warning signs:

  • Talking, writing, or drawing about death.
  • Talking about having no reason to live, being a burden to others, or not being here tomorrow.
  • Looking for ways to attempt suicide.
  • Feeling hopeless, desperate, or trapped.
  • Giving away possessions.
  • Behaving recklessly.

We let the teens know that these symptoms can be subtle. But if their gut instinct is telling them that something isn’t right, something may not be right. And it’s important to reach out for help.

Take the warning signs seriously, and take immediate action:

  • Tell an adult you trust.
  • Ask the question. Ask if the person needs help, if they are thinking of attempting suicide.
  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Call the National Suicide Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • Go to an emergency room or call 911.
  • Do not keep warning signs a secret.

Sometimes when I’m presenting “Ending the Silence,” especially when we’re on the topic of suicide, I think the kids seem so young to hear about it. But they must.

The National Institute of Mental Health says that for ages 10-14, suicide is the third leading cause of death. For ages 15-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

Mental illness can affect any one of us. At any time. Teens need to know there is help available and they are not alone.

When I speak to the students, I never know if a kid in that classroom, or maybe a family member or friend, is struggling with a mental health condition. I never know who I’m going to reach.

The more educated the younger generation is about mental illness, the greater the chance the stigma will lessen.

We must have this conversation. Let’s keep it going.

#SuicidePrevention #StigmaFree

First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here

Third image courtesy of here

Fourth image courtesy of here

24 thoughts on “Teens and Suicide Prevention

  1. Wow you are doing a wonderful job, I would like to tell you a few things even though I know you know this stuff better than me.

    School and the education system play a large part in worsening the children’s mental health. Cramming stuff up is not exactly gaining knowledge, something which our schools fail to understand. And then there is the problem of bullying too.
    I am not saying that the kids don’t learn anything there but it actually gives them more stress than education.

    One suggestion: make your sessions as interactive as possible. Ask students to share about their experiences(only those who are willing to, of course) regarding the matter or share your personal experiences. This will help in ending the other students’ hesitation. Make sure there are no teachers around because sometimes you don’t really wanna share your personal thoughts and feelings with your elders.

    And yeah please keep on continuing with the good work. We need people like you in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! I appreciate you taking the time to read and for your thoughtful comment. I agree, kids are more stressed than ever before, and I know from when my girls were in high school, they were stretched to the limit with homework, projects, sports, and extracurricular activities. And you’re right about the bullying. I think that may be worse due to social media. About your suggestion (which is really good), we do have the teens share if they want to. Sometimes the class is super quiet and nervous to talk. Others are more vocal. Throughout the presentation, I share my experience with panic attacks and anxiety (and mental illness in my family), and my co-presenter tells of her struggles with mental illness. Thanks again, and take care! Jenny

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an incredibly important topic. There was a teen in outback Australia by the name of Dolly who took her life earlier this year. Such a tragic waste of life, so incredibly devastating. What you’re doing is commendable Jenny. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really appreciate this entry, because I know my depression started in my tween/teen years and I am very fortunate enough to still be alive. I hope this encourage other teens to seek out help, because it does get better. I am proof that it does.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel as a teen that almost everyone i know my age is depressed mildly in a way but I have read a book called “Young People Ask” and it speaks on a wide variety of subjects that have helped me through my high school years but this post reminded me of how much help it was to read this book and especially how much my parents helped me through my dark times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for visiting here and your nice comment! Thanks for the book suggestion, I’m going to take a look at it. Glad this post reminded you of the book that helped you. And awesome your parents were by your side. Thanks again, take care! Jenny🌼


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