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There are many warning signs for suicide attempts among young people. Here are 13 of the most prominent.

Warning signs:
1. Relationship problems. Just broke up with a boy or girl friend.
2. School grades suddenly drop, especially after having decent to excellent grades.
3. Out of character behavior (e.g., risk-taking), moodiness, lack of concentration. These can be hard to spot when teens are sleep-deprived or moody in general.
4. Statements of hopelessness, powerlessness or feeling trapped. These can be obvious or not so obvious.
5. Stops interest in previously loved activities. The “tennis champ” who suddenly hangs up the racket? Just dropped out of going on a school field trip?
6. Talks about suicide (even when “joking”) or a wish to die. Idle remarks about suicide must be considered serious.
7. Starts to/actually makes a plan to hurt oneself. Any stated or written plan to hurt oneself is a large warning sign.
8. Preoccupation with death, including media on suicide. Does the teen access web sites or library on how to commit suicide?
9. Lack of attention to personal hygiene/appearance. Moving from clean cut and well groomed to sloppy usually gets attention and is an important sign.
10. Wearing long sleeves to conceal cutting or self-harm. Clinicians often note that a teen wearing long sleeves, especially during warm weather, is a warning sign, potentially of suicidal intention or “cutting,” (or self-harm).
11. Giving away or throwing away one’s possessions. Giving away the comic book collection or loved dolls is a big warning.
12. Increased substance or alcohol use. Substance and alcohol abuse are both warning signs.
13. Statements indicating they won’t be here; saying goodbye. These are usually statements about not being around for a future.

The more of these warning signs and the more often they occur, the higher the likelihood a youth will consider or attempt suicide.

youth suicide prevention

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Dr. Chris Downs has devoted much of his professional career to improving services and outcomes for older, at-risk youth. Chris is President of The Downs Group LLC, based in Seattle and has the pleasure of working with many talented professionals in child welfare and allied areas including his company Associates.