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Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens and young adults, and it can be prevented. Simple acts — like safeguarding homes and having regular conversations and check-ins — are proactive steps we all can take to help keep children and teens safe. 

Suicide Awareness and Prevention 

At Phoenix Children’s, we believe suicide prevention is a job for all of us. We want to partner with you so you can recognize when a child or teen is struggling and step in to help. 

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. 

You are not alone. To talk with someone now, call:
1-800-273 TALK (8255) — National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-248-TEEN (8336) — Arizona’s Teen Lifeline, staffed by and for teens

Warning Signs 

You may be surprised to learn that your child or teen might have had, or is currently having, thoughts of suicide. These thoughts rarely come out of the blue. Though it can be hard to distinguish between a serious problem and the typical challenges of growing up, there are suicide warnings to watch for. 

Experts at Phoenix Children’s recommend that you focus on your child or teen’s actions, emotions and thoughts. 

  • Actions: Is your child or teen, who typically enjoys school, no longer completing their homework? Did your child once love a sport or activity that they now want no part of? Have your child’s sleep habits changed significantly? Have they become more isolated socially? Big changes to who your child is and what they do can signify they may need help. 
  • Emotions: Has your happy-go-lucky child become constantly tearful, frozen or angry? Is your child going from one emotion to another, then back again? Emotional swings are common as children move into adulthood. But, if your child or teen’s emotional state has changed in a significant way, this could be a warning sign that they need help. 
  • Thoughts: Has your child told you they believe the world would be better off without them? Statements like this, point to a change in thinking that shouldn’t be ignored.

What You Can Do As A Parent

Check-in Early and Often

At Phoenix Children’s, we believe conversations about suicide should be as common as talks about drinking alcohol, using drugs or even wearing a seatbelt. 

Plan regular mental health check-ins to see how your child or teen is doing. Don’t be afraid to ask if they’ve ever had thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Research indicates that simply asking these kinds of questions will not cause suicidal thoughts or actions. Instead, these conversations can offer relief to a child or teen and show them that you recognize their pain.

Have discussions early and often about feelings and dealing with those feelings. Let your child or teen know they are not alone. Talk with them about how you handle anger, frustration or sadness. Share specific examples. This will help them develop ways to cope with their feelings. 

Create a Safer Home

Research has found that our brains aren’t fully developed until our mid-20s. This means many children and teens are unable to control impulses, problem-solve and think logically during a crisis. In fact, studies have shown that the time between thinking about suicide to acting on those thoughts is often just a matter of seconds or minutes.

With young people’s emotions running fast and hot, it’s up to the adults in their lives to ensure their home environment is safe. Making it harder to access methods for self-harm can slow a person’s thinking and prevent them from acting on those thoughts. You can make your home safer by:

  • Locking up prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Unloading and securely storing firearms
  • Storing ammunition in a locked space separate from firearms
  • Restricting access to alcohol
  • Securing or locking up ropes or sharp objects like razor blades and knives

The Phoenix Children’s Center for Family Health & Safety can educate and provide gun locks and medication locks. 

You can also create a safer home for a child or teen in crisis by limiting their time alone behind closed doors. Have an open-door policy in your home to encourage communication. 

It’s also important to monitor and set limits on social media and screen time. Consider replacing time spent online with in-person interaction. Plan face-to-face time with your child. Sometimes, the best distractions are activities with someone you love. 

Define Your Mental Health Team

Physicians are an obvious first choice when building your child or teen’s mental health team. Still, there are many other important partners to consider. These include teachers and school administrators, family and friends. Consider who is part of your mental health team, and reach out to them for help.

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. 

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, reach out to their pediatrician or primary care provider. 

Find a Phoenix Children’s Pediatrician

You can also contact your local community mental health center. Many health insurers have online resource directories guiding you to mental health services in your area. If you know a child, teen or young adult who is at-risk for homelessness, is homeless or does not have insurance, please refer them to Phoenix Children’s Crews’n Healthmobile

To talk with someone now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Teens can call Arizona’s Teen Lifeline — a phone line staffed by and for teens — at 1-800-248-TEEN (8336).

Other Resources

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