Many teens in South Dakota know someone who has thought about suicide, attempted suicide or died by suicide. Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 24, second only to accidents for this age group. The same is true for South Dakota youth ages 10 to 24, where it is the second leading cause of death as well, again, second only to accidents,.

These statistics are particularly alarming because this does not have to be the case. Suicide is often preventable if one knows the warning signs to look for and is able to access help. There is not an easy answer as to why a young person might want to end their life, as often there are multiple reasons that exist. Sometimes there is an illness such as depression. There may be other triggering factors such as a loss or other stressful life event. In most cases, the youth does not want to die but wants a way to end the unbearable pain they are experiencing.

One way to help reduce suicide among youth and teens is to implement lethal means counseling. Lethal means counseling is helpful in reducing suicide deaths by helping families of youth to understand and make plans to remove lethal means from their home and/or secure them properly. This includes removing or locking firearms and disposing or securing medicine bottles. More information on lethal means counseling can be found a Leatha Means Counseling Ι Means Matter Ι Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health or CALM: Counseling on Access to Lethal Means Ι Suicide Prevention Resource Center


  • Help Yourself
  • Help Others
  • +

    Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated.

    People don't necessarily want to end their lives, but want to end the pain they are currently experiencing, so if you can help them to find another way to solve their problems, they would choose to live. Suicide is often related to untreated or under-treated mental health issues, such as depression, which is treatable.

  • +

    Others might see solutions.

    While you might not be able to think of solutions to your problems other than suicide, there are other answers. It is likely that you just cannot see them right now. A counselor, or sometimes a friend, can help you to see solutions and problem-solve without having to harm yourself.

  • +

    Suicidal crises are almost always temporary.

    Although it might seem as if your unhappiness will never end, it is important to realize that crises are usually time-limited. Solutions are found, feelings change, unexpected positive events occur that change your outlook. Suicide is sometimes referred to as "a permanent solution to a temporary problem." Don't let suicide rob you of better times that will come your way when you allow more time to pass and for situations to change. There are an untold number of people who suffered feelings of despair and thoughts of suicide but made it through to a long and fulfilling life. You can be one of these people.

  • +

    Problems are seldom as great as they appear at first.

    Job loss, financial problems, loss of important people in our lives -- all such stressful events can seem catastrophic at the time they are happening. Then, months or years later, they are things of the past. If you imagine yourself five years down the road you may see that a problem that currently seems catastrophic will pass.

  • +

    Reasons for living can help a person in pain.

    You may be able to strengthen your connection with life if you consider what has given your life meaning or what is important to you. Family ties, your religion, love of art or nature, and dreams for the future are just a few of the many aspects of life that provide meaning and gratification, but which we can lose sight of due to emotional distress. You may need help to explore and reconnect to your reasons for living as well as successfully working through reasons you have been thinking about dying.

  • +

    How could anyone want to die?

    Many people are unable to see alternatives to their problems or an end to their pain. Many who consider dying by suicide still want to live: your friend may have mixed feelings about turning thoughts of suicide into a suicide attempt. By recognizing risk and getting him or her to help, a life can be saved.

  • +

    Go ahead and ask.

    Your friend may hint or joke about suicide, but it is important to take all communications about suicide seriously. It is safe to ask directly, "Are you thinking about killing yourself?" Talking about suicide does not cause suicide. If you have difficulty asking your friend about his or her thoughts, enlist an adult to help you. Or call Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and the trained counselors there will help.

  • +

    Get help.

    Someone can help you help your friend: ask an adult for help or get help from people and organizations that specialize in crisis intervention, mental health, or suicide prevention. Think about the adults in your life who could help: teachers, clergy, doctors, coaches, counselors, and others. Or call Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and they will find someone local to help you help your friend.

  • +

    Don't keep secrets.

    Rather than promising your friend to keep secrets, tell him or her you can help, but that you need to involve other people.

  • +

    Really listen.

    Show your interest and support without judgment. Don't interrupt, and don't give advice. Express concern and tell your friend that together you can make a difference.

  • +

    Stay with your friend.

    Don't leave a suicidal friend alone. Go with him or her to a mental health professional, hospital emergency room, or primary care physician. Or help him or her to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

  • +

    Move out of harm's way.

    If there are firearms, drugs, or other means of suicide in his or her home, try to remove access to them until the crisis has passed. This might mean leaving the situation where there are means accessible or trying to make inaccessible anything that might be used by your friend in an impulsive moment.

  • +

    Take care of yourself.

    Helping a suicidal friend is stressful. Make sure you get support: talk to a friend or other caring person and get good food, rest, exercise, and whatever else you need.

  • +

    Learn the warning signs and what to do.

    Friends sometimes let friends know if they are thinking about suicide or dying. Other times, they don't say anything, but their behavior communicates that they are struggling emotionally. Any of the warning signs should prompt you to express concern, ask about suicidal thoughts and plans, and help your friend get help.