Stirling Behavioral Health Institute

  Mental Health Services Provider

  6931 Van Nuys Blvd. #102 

  Phone (818) 376-0134 
  Fax (818) 376-1437

Suicidal behavior is an action intended to harm oneself and includes suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and completed suicide. Suicidal ideation is thoughts and plans about suicide. Suicide attempts are acts of self-harm that could result in death, such as hanging or drowning.

  • A stressful event may trigger suicide in children who have a mental health disorder such as depression.
  • Children at risk of suicide may be depressed or anxious, withdraw from activities, talk about subjects related to death, or suddenly change their behavior.
  • Family members and friends should take all suicide threats or attempts seriously.
  • Health care practitioners try to determine how serious the risk of suicide is.
  • Treatment may involve hospitalization if the risk is high, drugs to treat other mental health disorders, and individual and family counseling.

Suicide is rare in children before puberty and is mainly a problem of adolescence, particularly between the ages of 15 and 19, and of adulthood. In the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents ages 14 - 19. It results in 2,000 deaths per year in that age group.

Many more young people attempt suicide than actually succeed. A survey done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 28% of high school students had suicidal thoughts and 8.3% had attempted suicide. Frequently, suicide attempts may be a cry for help.

Among adolescents in the United States, boys outnumber girls in completed suicide by more than 4 to 1. However, girls are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide.

Risk Factors

Several factors typically interact before suicidal thoughts become suicidal behavior. Very often, there is an underlying mental health disorder and a stressful event that triggers the behavior. Stressful events include

  • Death of a loved one
  • A suicide of a friend or peer at school
  • Loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Humiliation by family members or friends
  • Being bullied at school
  • Failure at school
  • Trouble with the law
  • A move from familiar surroundings (such as the school or neighborhood) or friends

However, those stressful events are fairly common among children and rarely lead to suicidal behavior if there are no other underlying problems.

The most common underlying problems are the following:

  • Depression: Children or adolescents with depression have feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that limit their ability to consider alternative solutions to immediate problems.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse: The use of alcohol or drugs lowers inhibitions against dangerous actions and interferes with anticipation of consequences.

Poor impulse control: Adolescents, particularly those who have a disruptive behavioral disorder such as conduct disorder, may act without thinking.

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