Identify Signs and Prevent Teenage Suicide During the Pandemic
Teenage suicide was an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic started. Due to the drastic effects of the pandemic on mental health, suicide is an even bigger concern for teenagers now. By knowing the exact reasons and signs for teenage suicide cases, you can save lives. Continue reading to learn about how to prevent teenage suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Common Reasons and Signs of Teenage Suicide
Reasons and Signs of Teenage Suicide for Students
Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, teenagers had many things to look forward to — sports, clubs, dances, graduation, and seeing their friends. Social distancing and online classes have made some of these activities non-existant or completely altered. With no end to the pandemic in sight, teenagers feel hopeless and anxious today. If left untreated, feelings associated with mental health conditions may lead to suicide.
Many signs in online academic settings are not much different from in-person settings. However, there are some important differences. Let’s look at the signs to recognize during online learning.
- Attitude changes during Zoom classes (aggression and extreme sadness followed by extreme happiness)
- Disruptive behavior and inappropriate comments
- Abusive background noise and/or actions during Zoom classes
- Prolonged absences
- Changes in appearance
While some of these signs might appear as normal adolescent angst, they should be looked into more thoroughly during this time of social distancing.
Reasons and Signs of Teenage Suicide to Consider for a Friend or Loved One
Social distancing has caused teenagers to reduce in-person contact with friends, partners, and long-distance relatives. This can cause extreme loneliness, isolation, sadness, and hopelessness. Since families still spend more time in the house together, some of them have more tension and conflicts. This can cause teenagers to feel anxious, angry, and lose self-esteem. Over time, these feelings can get very intense.
If you suspect that a friend, family member, or partner could be at risk for suicide, here are some signs to recognize.
- An abnormal amount of isolation
- Very little communication
- Words about feeling hopeless or wanting to end one’s life
- Extreme mood swings
- Rapid changes in attitude and behavior
- Substance abuse
Often times, your loved one will not let you to see any of these signs. Therefore, it is important to take even the littlest hint seriously. You will learn about treatment tips later.
Teen Suicide Prevention
Understand the Difference Between Suicide and Suicidal Ideation
Knowing the difference between suicide and suicidal ideation can give you hope that teen suicide prevention is possible. The National Youth Mental Health Foundation defines suicidal ideation as, « thoughts that life isn’t worth living, ranging in intensity from fleeting thoughts to concrete, well thought-out plans for killing oneself ».1 The Center for Disease and Control defines suicide as « death cause by injuring oneself with the intent to die. »2 As long as the person you are concerned about is alive, he or she might have a suicidal ideation without a plan. Therefore, you can prevent ideation from progressing to the act of suicide.
Suicide Prevention Strategies
Knowing that a friend, family member, partner, or student exhibits signs of teenage suicide risk can break your heart. You might not feel equipped to help the person. However, there are many things you can do to prevent a suicide. Here are some strategies.
Strategies for teachers
- Write a letter of support for your student.
- Contact the students’ parent(s) about your concern.
- Spend a session teaching your class about mental health conditions, resources, and when and how to seek help.
- Assure all students that you will be available for emotional support.
Strategies for friends, family members, and partners
- Assure the person that they can go to you for support.
- Check in with the person regularly in-person or through a text, phone call, or video call.
- Encourage the person to consider online therapy and psychiatry..
- Assist the person with self-care activities and coping skills.
- Write a loving note to the person showing how much you care.
- Join an online support group for suicide prevention advocacy.
- Establish healthy boundaries.
Now that you know about the signs and reasons for teenage suicide as well as some prevention strategies, you can be the hero your friend, student, or loved one needs. While you advocate for someone else, please remember to take care of yourself as well.
If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on suicide, see our suicide information resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see out mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.
1. Purcell, R. and Scanlan, F., « MythBuster: Suicidal Ideation. » Headspace Website, 2009.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, « Preventing Suicide. » Accessed September 5, 2020.