7 Common Myths About Teen Suicide

What Parents Need to Know About Teen Suicide

Depression is common among teens and can be a major risk factor in suicide.
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Although many parents talk to their kids about the dangers of not washing their hands or the risks of meeting strangers online, very few parents ever talk to their teens about suicide. Mental health problems and suicide can be an uncomfortable subject to broach--especially when you aren't sure what to say.

But sadly, your teen is at a much greater risk of dying from suicide than almost anything else.

 More teens die from suicide than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, chronic lung disease, heart disease, AIDS, and birth defects combined. 

Educate yourself about suicide. Not only will that enable you to be on the lookout for possible signs your teen may be at risk, but understanding suicide will also help you hold meaningful conversations with your teen on the subject.

Here are the seven most common myths about teen suicide:

1. Teens who threaten to commit suicide are just looking for attention.

Teens usually excel at hiding problems, especially from adults. A teen who is talking about suicide needs to be listened to carefully and taken seriously. If your teen mentions suicide, take it very seriously and seek professional help immediately. 

2. Asking teens if they have had thoughts about suicide increases their risk.

Sometimes parents fear that bringing up the subject of suicide will somehow plant the seed.

But asking direct questions about suicide won't compel your teen to kill himself. But if he is having any suicidal thoughts, he will feel relieved by your questions. 

3. Teens who aren't successful in completing suicide weren't serious.

A teen that attempts suicide is trying to stop their pain and suffering.

Teens who make an attempt are at much higher risk of trying again. Their second attempts are much more likely to be lethal. 

4. Teens who commit suicide always act sad beforehand. 

Depressed teens frequently don’t appear sad or depressed. They may appear irritable or withdrawn, and may be happy at times. Suicide may be a rather sudden response to a major stressful event.

5. Teens who commit suicide spend a lot of time planning it. 

The decision to commit suicide may be planned - but it could also be somewhat of an impulsive one.  Suicide may feel like the best way to escape pain. A teen who has been humiliated, rejected, or subjected to bullying, for example, may think suicide is the only way out.

6. Suicide among teens is rare. 

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens. But, most people aren't aware that it such a common problem. Suicides don't usually make the news and many families keep a teen's suicide as private as possible. Teens who struggle with mental health issues like depression and those who abuse substances are at the highest risk of taking their own life. 

7. A suicide plan doesn't mean a teen is actually at risk of following through. 

A teen with a specific plan for how and when to commit suicide is a teen in serious trouble.

When a mental health professional assesses a teen for suicide risk, meeting this criteria means the teen is potentially in immediate danger and steps need to be taken to ensure safety. 


The Jason Foundation: Youth Suicide Statistics.

American Psychological Association: Teen Suicide is Preventable.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Teen Suicide.

Updated by Amy Morin, LCSW.

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