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Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among U.S. teens. About 7 percent of high school students make an attempt each year.

Despite this, only about 13 percent of teens with suicidal thoughts visited a mental health care provider, according to a new study in the journal Academic Pediatrics. The number of those seeking help was low even though these teens’ health plans offered access to mental health services at a low cost and without a referral.

Sudden Behavior Change Is a Red Flag

The teen years are full of emotional highs and lows. Teens in the study who had suicidal thoughts also had more behavioral problems and other difficulties in their daily lives. Watch for these warning signs of suicide:

  • Talking or writing about suicide and death

  • Changes in activities or emotions. For instance, your teen may suddenly seem sad or hopeless, or lose interest in hobbies that used to be fun.

  • Getting in trouble, including running away, withdrawing, or acting rebellious, aggressive or overly impulsive

  • Using drugs or alcohol

You Can Help Prevent Teen Suicide

If you think your teen is in immediate danger, go to the emergency room. Doctors can evaluate suicide risk and refer your family to a mental health professional.

In the longer term, keep the lines of communication open. Ask your teen how she’s feeling or whether he’s ever thought of hurting himself. Don’t be hesitant to bring up the topic. Talking about suicide can stop it from becoming a reality.

Therapy and medications are treatment options that can help teens overcome depression and suicidal thoughts. Ask your pediatrician or a school counselor for help. Or, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or visit the website at

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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