By: Daniel P. Quinn

(Daniel Quinn is a free lance writer who lives in Jupiter Florida. His business experience includes having run a successful Real Estate firm, and an Internet Services firm which he sold in 2002.)

Early Warning Signs
We can prevent teenage suicide by learning and acting on early warning signs.

We all know suicide kills, but do we acknowledge the fact that approximately 12 young people between the ages of 15-24 commit suicide EVERY DAY. [1] Suicide is the third leading cause of death, behind unintentional injury and homicide for young people 15-24 years old. [2]

Warning signs of possible suicide:

  • Is your child acting like a rebel in an unusual way
  • Is your child either loosing or gaining weight
  • Has their appearance changed
  • Has your child given away any of their prized possessions
  • Do you find disturbing notes or poems
  • Does your child self-harm, do they cut, can you see their arms, wrists and feet
  • Has your child ever attempted suicide before
  • Does your child use statements like, I shouldn’t be here, I’m going to run away, I wish I were dead, I’m going to kill myself, I wish I could disappear forever, The voices tell me to kill myself, Maybe if I died, people would love me more, I want to see what it feels like to die
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods, especially guns
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental and substance abuse disorders and/or suicidal thoughts
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people

Significant changes that may be life threatening:

  • Presence of a psychiatric disorder
  • Depression
  • Drug Abuse
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Behavioral problems like impulsive and aggressive behavior and frequent expressions of rage
  • Abnormal conduct like running away or being incarcerated
  • The expression of thoughts of suicide, death or dying
  • Sadness, boredom, or negative feelings
  • Previous exposure to suicide
  • Recent severe life stressor (for example sexual orientation; unplanned pregnancy or other significant real or impending loss)
  • Family loss or instability; significant family conflict

Be aware of other potential signs:

  • Trouble in school
  • Personality changes, usually for the worst
  • Trouble with friends, girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Signs of withdrawal from people and friends they used to feel close to
  • Trouble with concentration

By no means, is this a complete list of symptoms. Know these signs, learn about others and use common sense. Dig deep, reach out, look and listen.

The Troubled Mind

The suicidal mind is withdrawn in a dark and desperate place. Air is shallow, pressure is great and fear is all they know. A longing for peace and relief from this pain is all they want to know. What you see as Self- Harm, Injury, and Damaging may be Self-Help, Relief and Soothing to the pained person.

Pain causes suicidal thinking; extreme pain causes suicide…don’t think you know pain if you are dealing with a suicidal teen.

People don’t talk about attempted suicide or suicidal behavior. They are afraid. Listen to the desperation, listen to the fear and loathing, listen, and try to feel their strength. They are survivors. The word suicide is so influential because of the power and stigma associated with the word and the action…suicide is forever; pain can go away.

If you don’t have respect for their strength you can’t be of help. If they let you in, consider it a privilege. There is no reason they should trust you; they have been betrayed. You can’t know their terror—it would be your worst nightmare, a nightmare from which you never awake. It’s unrelenting. No person, no time, place, or thing offers safety. All is tainted. Hope is obliterated, time and time again. It is a supreme act of valor that they are in your presence.

Suicidal thoughts begin when fear of survival overshadows the fear of death. Suicidal thoughts end when we find relief.

A Solution
Intervene in your child’s life before, during or after a crisis. For more information on resources that can help and ideas to help parents, spend some time reviewing some of the other pages on this 2,000 page web site

Kristie Campbell, co-owner StrugglingTeens LLC, is an educational consultant (with Therapeutic Placement Solutions) who has worked closely with Schools and Programs for struggling teens for 20 years. is a leading online resource available to parents of children making poor decisions, and the professionals trying to help those families. You’ll find a wide variety of resources for your child with ideas from and about schools and programs, chat with other parents and professionals, follow articles by and for parents, order books and newsletter subscriptions, and stay up-to-date on current news.

“Frequently, intervention involves helping the parents find a suitable temporary residential placement for their child. Although many parents consider this type of intervention to be a unique and drastic action, in reality, a parent’s intervention in their child’s life is common, and goes on throughout the child’s life. A crisis intervention differs only by being perhaps more dramatic than other interventions.” [3]

Please refer to the INTERVENTION essay for additional information.

About the Author
Published Article Copyright ©2004 Daniel Quinn
Daniel Quinn is a freelance writer who can be reached at

[1] AAS, American Association of Suicidology, “AAS Suicide Fact Sheets”, “Youth Suicide”

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC)—

Other information can be fund at the following website:
NIMH, National Institute of Mental Health, In Harm’s Way: Suicide in America, 2003