LEARN: How can parents prevent child and teen suicide?

Reshmita Das | October 12, 2022

How can parents help prevent suicideSuicide is a serious public health concern among all age groups. When it is children, the community suffers greatly as a result of the significant years of potential life lost. Children who attempt suicide and survive may experience serious injuries that can have long-term effects on their mental and physical health. Kids should grow, thrive, and live long, healthy lives. Yet, over 25% of childhood deaths in the US are caused by suicide. Let’s look at some startling facts about why suicide among children is becoming a growing concern in recent times. 

  • Each day in the US, there are an average of 3,703 suicide attempts by young people in grades 9-12
  • Four out of five individuals considering suicide show some sign of their intentions, either verbally or behaviorally.
  • Results from the 2019 Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that 19% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide, and 9% actually attempted suicide
  • As many as one in five adolescents shows signs of a mental health disorder.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers

Is suicide preventable?

YES. Suicide is complex but often preventable. This sobering reality is a call to action for all parents and caregivers to make a difference. We, as parents, have a critical role to play in identifying and supporting our children at risk. It will help save lives and create healthy, strong individuals, families, and communities. Now more than ever, there is an urgent need to prevent youth suicides.

What are some possible risk factors of suicide among children?

A single risk factor does not cause suicide or suicidal thoughts. Many children who go through stressful life events, such as the separation of parents, bullying at school or in their social world, heartbreak, or the death of a loved one, may experience intense sadness, anger, and anxiety. For children with mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety, stressful life events or prolonged stress can cause deep feelings of hopelessness and increase the risk of suicide. They start believing they are better off dead and can have recurring thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Substance abuse and impulsivity also increase a child's risk of suicide.

Suicide risk factors: 

  • Mental illness

  • Drug or alcohol abuse

  • Access to guns, drugs, or other means of self-harm

  • Prolonged stress or a stressful life event

  • Suicide of a family member, friend, or classmate

  • Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma

LEARN: How can parents help prevent suicide?

LEARN is an acronym for the five steps created by University of Washington Forefront Suicide Prevention Center that will help recognize when children may be at risk for suicide, and take early steps to keep them safe.

LEARN technique to prevent suicide

1. LOOK for Signs

We can prevent suicide if we detect the red flags early. Most tweens and teens who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs through their - mood, behavior or talks.

Warning Signs - Mood

Kids who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Loss of interest

  • Loneliness

  • Irritability

  • Hopelessness/helplessness

  • Humiliation/Shame

  • Agitation/Anger

  • Feeling blue, “down in the dumps”

  • Sudden, unexplainable joy after periods of depression

Warning Signs - Talks

You can't always tell when a child has suicidal thoughts, but a depressed child may express their sadness and excessive worry without realizing while speaking verbally and online. Here are some common things youth who are considering suicide may talk about:

  • Killing themselves

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Death, dying or violence

  • Having no reason to live

  • Being a burden to others

  • Feeling trapped

  • Unbearable pain

Statements they might say:

  • "Bye - you'll all get over it."

  •  "I can't do this anymore." 

  • "Tired of trying to be perfect." 

  • "I'm going to kill myself."

  •  "I wish I were dead." 

  • "I wish I hadn't been born."

Teen Suicide Warning Signs

Warning Signs - Behavior

  • Withdrawing/ isolating from family and friends

  • Joking about death

  • Increasing drug/alcohol use

  • Trouble sleeping or eating

  • Researching ways to die

  • Talking interest in online content related to self-harm, suicide and violence

  • Giving away possessions

  • Reckless behavior

  • Not caring about consequences

  • Cutting or other self-injury

  • Changes in personality

  • A Negative outlook on life

  • Poor academic/work performance

  • Finding difficult to do daily activities

  • Having mood swings

  • Doing risky or self-destructive things

  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

  • Developing personality changes

If you see multiple warning signs in your child related to their mood, behavior, and talk, move on to the next LEARN step.

2. EMPATHIZE and Listen

Nothing can beat the power of having a good and direct conversation with our children. Start a conversation about how they feel and what they are going through. To make this easy, we have a list of conversation starters, do check them out. As we talk with our tweens and teens, making them feel comfortable, loved and understood is important.

The dictionary describes empathy as the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position. 

Empathy forms the heart of any human relationship. It's actively listening to what the other person has to say without judgment by acknowledging and validating their feelings. When we empathize with our children, they develop trust and deep connections with us.

Here are some statements that you can use to communicate empathy to your children:

  • It’s okay to be anxious or scared about_______

  • I understand you’re feeling angry about ________.

  • Tell me more about that. 

  • I’m so glad you told me that you’re feeling really lonely. 

  • This is really tough. 

  • I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

  • Tell me more, I’m listening. 

  • I love you no matter what.

  • I can see that you’re hurting. That’s an awful feeling.

  • Thank you for sharing that with me. My heart hurts for you.

  • I’ve felt that way too.

  • Can I  just sit with you while you sort out these big feelings?

  • It must be tempting to give up…

  • It’s brave of you to talk honestly with me

Your discussion can then be followed up by the simple invitation, “Want a hug?”

Help prevent suicide

3. ASK Directly About Suicide

It's time to break the ice if you see multiple warning signs together with a difference in your child's behavior, and your instinct calls out that there's something you need to be concerned about. Youth suicide is taboo, and no one likes to talk about it. Asking about suicide will NOT plant the idea in someone's mind. In fact, when a teen has suicidal thoughts, they need someone to ask about their health and know that they are cared. Imagine what not asking may lead to.

Be confident and direct when you ask your child about their intentions of committing suicide. Some examples of direct questions can be:

  • Do you think about suicide? 

  • Are you thinking about killing yourself?

You might help them understand their feelings by asking:

"Sometimes when people are…

  • Struggling with fears about their future

  • Suffering a major loss

  • Feeling hopeless 

  • Isolated from friends 

  • Feeling alone / pushed away

  • Upset after a breakup

  • Feeling numb/detached

  • Feeling self-hatred

  • Tired of pleasing everyone

  • Feeling like giving up

…they begin to think about suicide. Do you think about suicide?"

What if the answer is a NO?

Continue your conversation, being open and empathetic. If you are still not convinced, try to spend more time and bond with them. Have conversations about their life and feelings often.

What if the answer is a YES?

Stay calm and take it seriously. Appreciate your teen for their honesty and acknowledge their pain. Ask these questions, one by one: 

  • How often do you think about it?
  • When do you think about it (all the time or only when you are really angry)?
  • Do you have a specific plan? 
  • Do you have access to the method to carry out that plan?

Make use of the many resources available to you and your teen, spend time together and identify ways that specifically work for them to control their urges, help them come up with strategies to distract themselves, control and wait for the urge to pass. Work with your child and come up with a safety plan that they can refer to at the peak of crisis, and write a list of at least five people whom they trust with their contact information and ensure it's in their pockets/wallets/phone at all times. Let your children know they are loved and cared for. Assure them you have got their back under all circumstances.

4.REMOVE the Dangers

Putting time & distance between someone at risk for suicide & the method they plan to use can save a life. Silently lock up or temporarily remove the following items from home:

  • Medicines in large quantities

  • Fire Arms

  • Belts

  • Ropes

  • Knives 

  • Chemicals.

  • Alcohol and drugs

  • Plastic bags

  • Sharps

  • Car keys

  • Pesticides

While this may seem an invasion of privacy, do a quick check of their rooms and bags to ensure they do not have access to any of the above.


Take quick action to help your teen with the crisis. Focus on immediate resources first and start the process to seek medical treatment and a therapist. Immediate resources include calling the crisis helpline numbers or calling a trusted adult, teacher, coach, elder or faith leader. 

Suicide Prevention Helpline

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

988 - The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

TTY Suicide Prevention Lifeline for deaf and hard of hearing 24/7: Dial 711, then 988.


• Trans lifeline: 877-565-8860 (24/7)

• Trevor project: 866-488-7386 (24/7)

• Sexual assault hotline (RAINN): 800-656-4673 (24/7)

(or use live chat feature)

• National domestic violence hotline: 800-799-7233 (24/7)

(or use secure chat feature)

• Addiction hotline (SAMHSA): 800-662-4357 (24/7)

• Disaster Distress Helpline (SAMHSA): 1-800-985-5990 

(or text TalkWithUs to 66746)

• Eating disorder hotline: 800-931-2237 

(or text NEDA to 741741)

Resources for parents and caregivers

National Parent Helpline: (855) 4 A PARENT ((855) 427-2736)

Connect with one of the crisis resources. Do this together with your child and add the appropriate crisis numbers (including the Lifeline and Crisis Text Line) on your and your child’s cell phone. Stay with your child until you feel it is safe for them to be alone.

How can Mobicip Parental Control help?

There is increasing evidence that the Internet and social media can influence a teen's suicide-related behavior. While an immense quantity of information on the topic of suicide is available on the Internet and on social media, unexpected acts of cyberbullying, catfishing, and online predators can lead to teen suicide. Too much screen time also contributes to mental health issues in young minds. 

As parents, we want to make the Internet safer for children, and that's where Mobicip comes in. Mobicip is an all-in-one parental control solution that allows you to team up with your child to self-regulate screen time and achieve complete peace of mind. 

Suicidal Behavior in Teens

With Mobicip, you can:

As a parent, you can approach suicide prevention in the same way you do other safety or health issues for your children. By educating and equipping yourself with the right tools and resources, you can learn what puts teens at greatest risk for suicide – and what protects them most strongly.

You may also like: What are the effects of cyberbullying on children?

<#% if SERVER_ENVIRONMENT == 'production' && content_for(:lucky_orange) && yield(:lucky_orange) %> <#% end %> %> %>