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Seven Facts About Adolescent Suicide

Suicide is devastating. It has many victims. If you are feeling hopeless or feel that you have nowhere to turn, call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), 24/7. You can also log onto the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Or  go to your local hospital emergency room.

If you are worried about a friend, please visit this site. If you are a parent, relative, teacher or mentor to a young person and you are worried about him or her, please visit this site.

And read our two-part interview on suicide with Alec Miller, PsyD.
  1. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 10-18 year-olds and the 2nd leading cause of death among college-aged youth.
  2. According to autopsy studies, nearly ¼ quarter of these adolescents had alcohol or drugs in their system at the time of death.
  3. Moreover, nearly all youth who commit suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of death even though they may not have seen a mental health professional for treatment.
  4. There are approximately 25 suicide attempts for every completed adolescent suicide.
  5. Nearly 1 out of 5 typical high school students in the US has seriously considered suicide in the past year.
  6. Suicidal behaviors and non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors (i.e., deliberate self-injury without intent to die) including cutting, burning, reopening wounds, account for the largest reason for emergency room visits and psychiatric hospitalizations.
  7. While suicide by firearms used to be the primary method for all age groups and gender, female children/adolescents are using more hanging/asphyxiation and pills these days.

These 7 facts about adolescent suicide were shared by Montefiore Hospital’s Alec L. Miller, PsyD, the co-author of Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Suicidal Adolescents (Miller, Rathus, & Linehan, 2007). We’ll continue speaking to Dr. Miller:

Welcome to Therapy Soup, Dr. Miller.

What is the youngest suicidal patient that you have worked with? How do they differ, aside from age, from older suicidal adolescents who are suicidal?

While I know of suicidal youth as young as 5 or 6 years of age, the youngest suicidal patient that I worked with was 11 years old. She felt as though no one understood her pain and no one loved her and she felt hopeless about her life. Younger children often don’t understand the more abstract concepts of death—such as permanence. In other words, that if she kills herself she is not going to come back to life later.

While many suicidal individuals are depressed—many are not clinically depressed. Other disorders associated with suicide among youth include, bipolar disorder, substance-use disorders, certain anxiety disorders, conduct disorder, and borderline personality disorder.  Those youth who carry multiple disorders and problem behaviors (e.g,. smoking cigarettes, disordered eating, etc), put them at higher risk for suicide.

Depression in youth sometimes looks different than adults in that they might be miserable for part of the day and then look bright and engaged after school when playing with friends. Many teens will describe themselves as “bored” more often and not finding pleasure in activities that used to provide pleasure.

In contrast to adults, the most common precipitant to youth suicidal behavior is interpersonal conflicts.

In contrast to adults, youth are more susceptible to contagion effects. Thus, if there is a suicide in the local school or community, it is important to assess and intervene with vulnerable kids.

Thank you. For more statistics on suicide, see the data.

In our next post, Dr. Miller will discuss the treatment of adolescent suicide.

Alec L. Miller, PsyD, is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Director of the Adolescent Depression and Suicide Program, and Associate Director of the Psychology Training Program at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York. Dr. Miller has published widely on topics including DBT, adolescent suicide, childhood maltreatment, and borderline personality disorder, and has trained thousands of mental health professionals in DBT. He co-founded Cognitive and Behavioral Consultants of Westchester, LLP, which is a private group practice in White Plains, NY.

Seven Facts About Adolescent Suicide

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2019). Seven Facts About Adolescent Suicide. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2019
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