Eight-Hundred Thousand Voices

One of the scariest experiences in the lives of parents and adolescents is the thought of dying, whether that be by accident or through intentional means. However, the conversation of death and dying is one of the most important discussions a family can have, as accidental deaths and suicide are among the leading causes of death for adolescents and teens. While conversations on this topic can be anxiety inducing, truly they save lives and educate future generations about the impact of their collective thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, this teaches future generations that their thoughts, feelings, and actions matter and are valid. This in turn can create a safety net of compassion, positive communication, and healthy relationship dynamics that can be built upon for a lifetime. 

Conversations on suicide and suicidal ideation do not have to be scary. Suicide is not a “dirty” word to be discouraged from use. Experiencing suicidal ideation does not have to be a shameful experience, if families leave the door open for honest, validating conversations regarding death and dying. While much could be said about this topic, the focus for this piece will regard suicide risk factors, and effective tools to help combat teen and adolescent suicide. Armed with this knowledge, the fear of the unknown does not have to exist with the same venomous strike as it has previously due to stigmatization through harmful messages from media, society, and within dynamics of friendships and families.

Verbiage Matters

There are many harmful stereotypes when it comes to discussing teen and adolescent suicide. One common misconception is that discussing suicide can increase risk related to engagement with suicidal ideation. 

In truth, talking about dying by suicide increases awareness surrounding the topic, making it easier for a teen to access resources and other forms of help. Positive conversations around this topic can increase the likelihood that your teen or adolescent will disclose possible suicidal thoughts, intents or plans with family members, friends, or other individuals they feel are safe.

When discussing suicide, it is important to avoid the term “Committed suicide”. 

Typically, this is laden with a negative association (i.e. committed a robbery, committed murder etc.). Suicide is often associated with shame and guilt, which can decrease teen or adolescent desire to disclose suicidal ideation or intent to die. 

Some terms to try instead: Die or death by suicide, suicide, or suicidal ideation. 

Important Statistics and Risk Factors 

Why is this topic so important? 

  • 800,000 people worldwide end their lives by suicide in a given year
  • In 2015, on average a person died by suicide every 20 seconds
  • Suicide attempts typically occur more frequently, averaging around 10-20 times more often           than deaths related to suicide 


* Globally, death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-29

Helpful Tools for Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts

Protective factors are important to the process of reducing risk factors associated with teen and adolescent suicide. They can also increase the likelihood of the teen or adolescent finding appropriate help. Some of these may include: 

Talking With Your Teen or Adolescent: Talking with your teen can increase the likelihood your teen will disclose when they are in need of help. Creating a validating space for your teen to discuss any life event can increase trust and a sense of well-being. Encouraging Family bonding moments can also be an incredible tool in fostering an environment that promotes healthy communication in a family. 

Encourage Healthy Lifestyle Habits: Encouraging healthier habits such as a balanced diet, and exercise routines can reduce stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for suicidal ideation. 

Consult a Psychiatrist or a Therapist/other Health Professional to Address Health Needs:  Suicidal Ideation can be exasperated by untreated mental health related difficulties. It is important to address mental health needs, so as to reduce the chance of exasperating any symptoms the teen or adolescent may be experiencing. Professionals also have assessment tools that can identify level of severity for an individual who may be experiencing suicidal ideation, to better identify solutions for the teen or individual in need. Supporting treatment plans created by professionals can increase adherence to plans that can help your teen thrive. 

Reduce or Secure Safety Measures for Access to Firearms and Other Tools: If your teen or adolescent has expressed suicidal  ideation, or has endorsed that they are currently experiencing suicidal ideation, it is important to limit access to firearms or other tools (medications, alcohol etc.) that could cause lethal harm. This could also be included in a safety plan created by a therapist or other mental health professional assisting your teen/adolescent. 

Reasonable Monitoring of Social Media Usage and Remaining Aware: If your teen or adolescent has experienced or is currently experiencing suicidal ideation, it is likely they have already begun showing signs that they are feeling this way. Be aware of the signs or changes in mood or expression of feelings, and treat them as accurate and valid.  It can be harmful to assume your teen is expressing suicidal ideation for attention, and can increase the likelihood of them hurting themselves as a result. Social media can also be an outlet for a teen to express suicidal ideation, and can be associated with bullying, unrealistic body image, and peer pressure. Monitoring usage can help reduce exposure to harmful stimulus associated with risk factors for suicidal ideation. 

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation, please reach out! 

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800 -272 – 8255

Emergency Service Line: 911

Suzanne Lancaster

Suzanne Lancaster

CSW, Marriage and Family Therapist Associate