Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide
Growing up is not easychildren and teenagers face many tough decisions and difficult life experiences that, at times, seem overwhelming. For some kids, a difficult, scary or threatening situation like the recent terrorist attacks can cause so much distress that they start to think about killing themselves. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for kids in middle school and high school and it can be prevented if adults and friends are aware of the warning signs and know what to do.
Although kids thinking about suicide are not likely to seek help, they do show warning signs to their friends, classmates, parents or trusted school personnel. Never ignore these signs. You can help! Some situations that might cause some kids to think about suicide include breaking up with boyfriend or girlfriend, failing in school, problems with parents, rejection by friends, etc. After a disaster such as a school shooting or terrorist attack in our country, some students may display warning signs of suicidal behavior. Children and youth who have experienced a personal loss, abuse, or an earlier tragic or frightening event, or who suffer from depression or other emotional problems, have a higher risk of suicide. Youngsters who have these risk factors and who have been directly impacted by or witnessed the attacks are most likely to consider suicide. Warning signs may not appear right away, following the event. Parents, teachers and friends must be good listeners and observers over the weeks to come. Below are some tips to help prevent suicide and get help.
Suicide Warning Signs
What Can You Do to Help a Friend?
1. Know the warning signs! Read over the list above and keep it in a safe place.
2. Do not be afraid to talk to your friends. Listen to their feelings. Make sure they know how important they are to you, but dont believe you can keep them from hurting themselves on your own. Preventing suicide will require adult help.
3. Make no deals. Never keep secret a friend's suicidal plans or thoughts. You can not promise that you will not tellyou have to tell to save your friend!
4. Tell an adult. Talk to your parent, your friend's parent, your schools psychologist or counselor-- a trusted adult. And dont wait! Dont be afraid that the adults will not believe you or take you seriouslykeep talking until they listen! Even if you are not sure your friend is suicidal, talk to someone. Its OK if you jump the gunthis is definitely the time to be safe and not sorry!
5. Ask if your school has a crisis team. Many schools (elementary, middle and high schools) have organized crisis teams, which include teachers, counselors, social workers, psychologists and principals. These teams help train all staff to recognize warning signs of suicide as well as how to help in a crisis situation. These teams can also help students understand warning signs of violence and suicide. If your school does not have a crisis team, ask your Student Council or faculty advisor to look into starting a team.
Adapted from A National Tragedy: Preventing Suicide in Troubled Children and Youth, available at www.nasponline.org. Modified from material posted on the NASP website in September 2001.
©2002, National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway, #402, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 657-0270; www.nasponline.org