Clinical Update, June 1,
Teen Suicide: The
It is estimated that
every minute of every single day, one young person under the age of 18 will
attempt to end his or her own life. In the United States and throughout the
world adolescent suicide remains an alarming
Our latest online course on
Teen Suicide for 4 CE Credits (http://www.drzur.com/teensuicidecourse.html) presents the facts and myths of teen
suicide, as well as assessment and treatment techniques to prevent teen
Facts About Teen
* Suicide is the third leading cause of
death for adolescents and young adults.
* Young males are much more likely to
commit suicide than their female peers.
* Female adolescents are more likely to
attempt suicide than their male peers.
* Female Hispanic students are more likely
to attempt suicide than all other students.
* American Indian/Alaskan Native male
adolescents have the highest suicide rate.
Myths and Faulty
Beliefs about Suicidal Teens
* Once a teenager decides to kill himself,
nothing can stop him.
* Young people talk about suicide mostly
to get attention, therefore the best thing to do is to ignore the
* If we ask a young person if they are
thinking about suicide, we run the danger of putting the idea of suicide in
* When a person tries to commit suicide
and fails, the pain and shame will deter another attempt.
* Since depression is often a common sign
of suicidal behavior, once the depression has subsided, the suicidal
teen is out of danger.
* Because suicide may "run" in families it
cannot be prevented.
* Do find out if the individual has
suicide ideation, a plan and means, and if so, what does it entail? Remember,
the more specific the plan, the higher the degree of risk.
* Do acknowledge that suicide is
one solution to the problem, but it is not the only nor the best solution to
* Do state that you will do
whatever you can to prevent this suicide.
* Do accept that in some cases you
may not be able to keep the individual from committing suicide.
* Do remember ambivalence. Most
people do not want to die, and individuals who want to kill themselves are
suicidal for a limited time only.
* Do make sure that someone removes
any guns or potentially lethal medication from the person. The police
department will accept any lethal means that people do not want to keep at
home. (If other alternatives are available, do not keep it in your
* Do tell the person that he/she
does not have to solve this problem alone.
* Do recognize the warning
signs. This is a key to preventing teen suicide. While there is no
single warning sign indicating that a person will attempt suicide, there are
warning signs that teenagers give that may alert us to their
* Do remind them that death is
final and emphasize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary
* Do respond to a
student's suicide by following up and utilizing multiple approaches to prevent
future suicides or cluster
* As a professional, weigh all your
options, consider the clinical, ethical and legal aspects of the case, conduct
a thorough suicide and level of risk assessment and risk-benefits analysis,
and when appropriate, consult. Always document your ethical
decision-making, what you did and why.
What Not to Do!
* Don't debate the merits of living
or dying with an actively suicidal person.
* Don't ask why the person would
commit suicide. Suicidal people may not know why. Determine how serious the
person is and ask if the individual has a plan and means.
* Don't belittle the person for
having these thoughts.
* Don't offer platitudes. They
* Don't try to win arguments about
suicide. Your client will always win.
* Don't keep silent, stay passive
or ignore the threat and danger.
* Don't leave the person alone if
you think there is immediate danger.
* Don't engage in a physical
struggle with a person who is armed.
* Don't challenge the person by
telling them to go ahead and do it.
* Don't give false reassurances
that "everything will be fine."
* Don't be misled if a teen tells
you that things are OK and that the emotional crisis has ended.
* Don't assume that the aggressive
child is more likely to commit suicide than the "good," "quiet" or "obedient"
* Their attitudes and beliefs about teen
* Profiles of the suicide
* Facts about teenage suicide
* Specific assessment tools
* Techniques for better evaluating
potential and risk of suicide
* The do's and don'ts of responding to
* Postvention techniques and
* Referral resources
Zur Institute: Innovative Resources and
Ofer Zur, Ph.D.
Phone: 707-935-0655, FAX:
Sonoma Medical Plaza, 181 Andrieux St., #212,
Sonoma, CA 95476