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What are the Most Common Causes of Teenage Suicide?

By Lily Ruha
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common causes of teenage suicide include depression, substance abuse, and social isolation. Teen suicide risk factors include psychological disorders, feelings of worthlessness, a family history of suicide, bullying, and physical and sexual abuse. Warning signs include self-destructive behaviors, frequent talk about death or suicide, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, and a loss of interest in favorite activities or foods. Teen suicide risk factors can be reduced through counseling, substance abuse intervention, and medication to control depression.

Some causes are related to family history and mental health. A teen whose father took his own life, for example, might consider suicide as a reasonable solution to life’s challenges. Teens with mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, might commit suicide as part of an episode of depression. Some depressive conditions have genetic roots and heighten a teenager’s discontent with life.

Causes of teenage suicide also may include specific life events. A teenager who has been sexually abused might contemplate committing suicide to escape the memories of the traumatic event. Some teenagers live in violent households and view suicide as a way to escape feelings of perpetual fear. Homosexual teenagers who are met with hostile reactions from family and bullying from classmates sometimes consider taking their own lives to escape the constant rejection. A teenager who has just gone through the breakup of a relationship or other painful event may also be more prone to suicide without a social support system in place.

Teen suicide warning signs include a wide range of behaviors. An adolescent who is depressed might talk about suicide, death, or a desire to get away from it all. He might have trouble sleeping or he might avoid eating. Falling grades and an inability to concentrate are other signs. Self-destructive behaviors are also common, such as substance abuse, speeding, or picking fights with other teens or adults.

Parents, teachers, and others who notice the warning signs can take action by becoming familiar with the causes of teenage suicide. Talking to the teen about his difficulties is a good starting point. Arranging for him to talk with a professional counselor is often important for determining the cause of the suicidal thoughts and for delivering treatment. A skilled professional can prescribe medication to treat depression and other mental health issues that may be behind the suicidal tendencies. Substance abuse treatment is also an important way to eliminate one of the most common causes of teenage suicide.

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Discussion Comments

By SarahGen — On Aug 16, 2013

@simrin-- Thank you for sharing that. I run a suicide prevention hotline and I spend all of my time trying to understand why teens decide to take this terrible step. Not having friends, a bad family environment and drug abuse seem to be the major causes.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 15, 2013

@burcinc-- I don't think that the marital status of parents has anything to do with teenagers committing suicide. I think what's important is having a home life that's peaceful, happy and supportive.

Some married couples are very unhappy and fight all the time. I think that's way worse for the psychology of a teen than a single parent who is responsible, caring and supportive of a teen.

I'm probably the best example. I tried to commit suicide as a teen because I was sick of my family. My parents hated one another, fought nonstop and used me and my brother against one another. It was a very unhappy environment and I just didn't want to live like that anymore.

After my suicide attempt, my mother gathered enough courage to file for divorce and she got custody of me. My parents' divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I hope that no teen who is reading this thinks that my suicide attempt was a good thing. It wasn't. It was the scariest experience of my life and I regret it every single day. If I had died, I would have missed all of the happy years that followed afterward. There is always a solution to life's problems. Death is not the solution.

By burcinc — On Aug 15, 2013

Are there any studies done on the marital status of parents of teens who commit suicide?

What I'm trying to learn is if children of single or divorced parents are more likely to commit suicide than children of married parents.

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