Warning Signs of Suicidal Thinking in Youth — How to Reduce the Chances

The threat of suicide is often one of the main concerns for families with loved ones struggling with depression. The onset of puberty can exacerbate the emotional and social turmoil during the adolescent years and it is common for parents to feel unequipped to help their child. Learning the warning signs of suicidal thinking can help parents know when to get your child professional help.

Warning Signs of Suicidal Behavior

If your child is having thoughts about suicide, it is unlikely that he or she will talk about it. People who have suicidal thoughts can put on a brave face, making it difficult to suspect their internal struggles or appear disengaged.  The feeling of hopelessness can be overwhelming to the point that they cannot see another way forward. Here are some suicide warning signs:

  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness and feeling trapped
  • Frequent references to being a burden to others or having no purpose in life
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased anxiety or agitation


The transition during the adolescent years comes with changes in mood and behaviors. It can be difficult to distinguish the difference between typical and atypical teenage behaviors. Maintaining open lines of communication with your children can be very helpful in monitoring their mental health. If you notice the changes in mood and behavior are affecting their day to day level enough to cause concerns, engaging in professional help is recommended.

What to Do If Your Child Is Having Suicidal Thoughts

If you suspect that your child is struggling or having suicidal thoughts, making an appointment with a mental health professional to assess the risk and develop a treatment plan is the first step to help your child. If your child talks to you about having suicidal ideation, it is important to take the discussion seriously. Parents often feel helpless and sometimes guilty or angry. Being mindful of your own emotions is helpful in maintaining an open communication without overreaction. Keep the focus on maintaining safety and getting help for your child to deal with their suicidal thoughts.

It’s ok to ask direct questions about your child’s suicidal thought. Find out if your child has a plan, means to execute the plan, a timeframe in mind and the intention to carry it out. People at the highest risk for committing suicide have these details worked out. If you assess your child to have an imminent risk, calling 911 or taking your child to the ER or crisis stabilization hospital to be further assessed is recommended. For Georgia residents, Behavioral Health Link (BHL) is a resource which offers immediate help to people experiencing a mental health crisis anytime day or night. The Georgia Crisis and Access Line is a toll-free number which will help connect people to the appropriate level of service. The Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL) number is (800) 715-4225.

If your child has suicidal thoughts without active plans, an outpatient mental health facility and/or professional should be contacted right away. Hillside’s outpatient clinic in Atlanta, GA has clinicians who are skilled in working with children and adolescents who struggle with suicidal ideations.

Residential Treatment Centers for Depression

When depression is severe and the thoughts of suicide are chronic, residential treatment may be needed. Residential treatment offers a longer-term care than inpatient crisis stabilization to help address the on-going problems that are contributing to the suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Hillside is the leading residential treatment center for depression in Georgia. Our treatment for children and adolescents facing mental illness includes an emphasis on rebuilding the family. The end goal is to have happy, healthy children return home to grow up with nurturing and supportive families. Contact Hillside today to learn more about reducing the chances of suicide by your child.

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