Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 15-24 in the United States, and is the second leading cause of death for this age group in South Dakota, second only to accidents. In 2016, there were 5,723 youth ages 15-24 that died by suicide in the United States. While these numbers may not seem large, even one death by suicide is too many.

Although youth suicide is relatively rare, thoughts of suicide are not. Data from South Dakota youth from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) indicate that 17.7% of high school youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, 14.6% made a plan for attempting suicide, and 8.6% had attempted suicide one or more times in the 12 month period before the survey.

It is important for parents to recognize changes in their child’s behavior that may indicate  something is wrong. It is not always easy to determine between the usual ups and downs of adolescent behavior and the signs of something more serious. In addition, youth may be reluctant to discuss their feelings. One important step that parents can take is to be aware of the risk factors and warning signs that a child might be at risk for suicide. Warning signs include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, helpless, trapped, losing control, worthless, anxious and angry.
  • Actions such as recklessness, doing risky or dangerous things, use of alcohol or other drugs, getting into fights or arguments, talking or writing about death, changes in eating and sleeping, withdrawal from friends or activities.
  • Statements such as “I won’t be around much longer,” “Pretty soon you won’t have to worry about me,” “It’ll all be over soon,” “I wish I was dead,” and “Nothing matters anymore.”
  • Situations such as losses of any kind (relationship, financial, family), life changes that seem overwhelming, getting into legal trouble or trouble at school, experiencing death of a friend or relative, especially if by suicide.