Common Warning Signs of Suicidal Behavior

Social Worker Resource
May 22, 2012 — 1,780 views  
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According to the most recent research by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, making up 34,598 deaths in 2007. That is an estimated 11.3 suicides per 100,000 people and approximately 11 attempted suicides occur for every one death.


For young children and teenagers, suicide is an even more prevalent cause of death. That same year, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 to 24. Broken down by age group, there were .9 suicides per 100,000 deaths for children ages 10 to 14. In adolescents, ages 15 to 19, this figures jumps to 6.9 suicides per 100,000 deaths.


Social workers serving troubled youths may want to be on the lookout for the warning signs of suicide or depression. Preventative measures can be taken to curb suicidal tendencies and get a child the help they need.


Here are four warning signs of suicidal behavior:


1. Dangerous behavior. Rebellious actions such as disappearing for long periods of time, increased sexual activity with multiple partners and the abuse of alcohol and drugs are all common signs of something going wrong. These and other behaviors show disregard as the child or teen acts out and harms themselves without a care for self preservation.

2. Threatening suicide. While not every person contemplating suicide will vocalize the thought, sometimes in cry for help a person may verbally leave clues such as "I won’t be troubling you any longer" or "I am going to disappear." A social worker can pay attention to the conversations he or she has with the child and then speak with friends, family or teachers to determine if these types of comments are making their way into many conversations.

3. Depression. Long bouts of sad or moody behavior can indicate a bigger issue than simply being sad. A child that has begun to display common symptoms of depression, which are very similar to suicide, may have an underlying problem and require treatment. If one of the children under your care begins to act melancholy, consider scheduling more frequent visits to determine if it is a one-time occurrence or more permanent condition.

4. Withdrawal from friends, family and activities. One of the classic warning signs of suicidal behavior is withdrawal. Once a child or teenager begins to remove themselves from other people and stops participating in activities that were once favorite pastimes, it may be time to involve oneself to get an accurate portrayal of their emotional and mental state.

Social Worker Resource