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Risk Factors for Suicide in Children, Signs and How to Seek Help

I'm Dr. Jyotsna Ranga, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with CHI Health and Creighton University.

Child and adolescent psychiatrists in the United States are really concerned about rising suicide rates in children and adolescents. It is now the second leading cause of death in young people between the ages of 10 and 19. Now with the super-imposition of a global health crisis—the Covid-19 pandemic—we're much more concerned about increased depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are leading to suicidal thinking and suicidal attempts.

Risk Factors for Suicide

  • Mental illness - depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance use - mental illness and substance use together exponentially increase the risk
  • Psychosocial stressors - adversity, exposure to trauma, domestic violence, neglect, peer rejection, bullying

Signs and Symptoms to Watch for in Children and Adolescents

  • Change in behavior - that can look like changes in appetite, sleep
  • Change in mood - they can get more irritable, more clingy or restless, more impulsive
  • Verbalizing thoughts of hopelessness, death and dying
  • Increase their use of substances
  • Increased involvement in social media and online platforms
  • Isolation

All of the above factors need to be explored further when they are noticed in children and adolescents.

How We Can Help as a Community

Children and adolescents are involved in multiple systems of care. They are involved with their parents, first and foremost, the family, as well as schools, churches, youth groups, etc. The following are some ways that we can hold hands and move forward towards safeguarding our children and adolescents.

  • The community partnering with the child and parent and family to identify and explore mental health services for a child flagged as potentially having some risk factors
  • De-stigmatize the approach to mental health counseling
  • Partner with pediatricians in the community to screen and refer children to therapy as well as psychiatry

How to Seek Help

If You're a Parent or a Teacher

If you're a parent or a teacher of a young person, and you're concerned about symptoms of depression and suicide risk, we can start with the school counselor or the pediatrician who can then move that referral forward to mental health counseling and psychiatry.

If You’re a Young Person

If you're a young person and are reading this and feel like you cannot reach out to a parent or an adult and want to, yourself, make that call, please call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).

Visit to connect with a CHI Health mental health provider. We offer in-person and virtual therapy sessions with our team of licensed mental health therapists.

Original Post Date: September 2021. Updated September 2022. 

Jyotsna Ranga, MBBS
Jyotsna Ranga, MBBS

Dr. Jyotsna Ranga is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with CHI Health and Creighton University.

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