Suicide risk: Signs and symptoms

 

Child and teen suicide may be preventable. Because of this, it is important to try to identify those who are considering suicide as early as possible. Below are some of the varied behavioural and emotional signs that a child or teen may have suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Behavioural signs of suicide risk

If your child or teen is contemplating suicide, they might:

  • talk about suicide or about not being in the world any longer
  • undergo marked changes in sleeping habits (sleep a lot more or a lot less than usual)
  • experience significant changes in eating habits (eat more or less than usual)
  • engage in self-harm
  • withdraw from friends and family, for example not want to leave their bedroom or home
  • withdraw from enjoyable activities
  • start or change their pattern of using substances such as alcohol and recreational drugs
  • have difficulties at school, for instance not finishing assignments, receiving lower grades, saying that they do want to go to school or missing classes frequently.

Emotional signs of suicide risk

A child or teen who is considering suicide might:

  • feel worthless
  • feel hopeless about the future
  • experience mood problems such as irritability, anger, rage or extreme increased agitation.

If you are concerned that your child is struggling with negative moods or feelings about themselves or the world around them, it is important first to talk with them to understand just how extreme these feelings are. You may also need to take steps to protect your child​

Key points

  • Someone who may be considering suicide usually displays a range of behavioural and emotional signs.
  • Behavioural signs include talking about suicide, dramatic changes in sleep habits, withdrawal from friends, family and enjoyable activities and difficulties in school.
  • Emotional signs include feeling worthless and hopeless and experiencing mood changes.
  • If you notice that your child or teen might have difficulties with their emotions, talk to them about it and, if necessary, take steps to protect them.

Further information

For more information on protecting your child or teen from suicide or self-harm, please see the following pages:

Suicide in children and teens: Overview​​

Self-harm in children and teens: Overview

Suicide and self-harm: How to talk to your child about their emotions

Suicide and self-harm: How to protect your child​

​​Marijana Jovanovic, MD, FRCPC

Daphne Korczak, MD, MSc, FRCPC (Paediatrics), FRCPC (Psychiatry)​

2/11/2016

Resources

In Canada, children and teens in distress can contact KidsHelpPhone on KidsHelpPhone.ca or call 1-800-688-6868.​​​​



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