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What Is Suicidal Ideation in Teens?

Embark Behavioral Health
March 8, 2021

Last Updated: March 2021

Suicidal ideation is an all-encompassing term that means having thoughts of suicide. These thoughts can range from a simple passive thought to more detailed plans around the act.

Ideation is not the same as a suicidal act or attempt, but it does have the potential to go from a thought to an action and should be taken seriously if your child is experiencing it. Intervention at the ideation stage may help keep your teenager from taking their own life.

Learn more about suicidal ideation in teens and contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, if your child is in crisis.

Identifying a Suicide Threat in a Teenager

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to joke about wanting to “end it all” over something like lack of sleep, a social dilemma, or work problems that they may be experiencing. However, for some teens, it can be a cry for help.

On average, 17% of adolescents have had suicidal thoughts at least once in the past year. If your child is talking about suicidal thoughts, it should be considered real, and swift action should be taken.

Suicidal ideation is sometimes the result of depression or another mental illness, but it’s important to remember that any teen can suffer from suicidal thoughts. In these instances, proper behavioral and mental health treatment can often aid in prevention.

If you see any of the following signs in your child who has mentioned suicide, seek help right away:

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Extreme changes in emotions
  • Withdrawal

The Danger of Suicidal Ideation in Teens

Suicidal ideation can last for hours, days or months before a suicide attempt. Every second that a teenager sits alone with thoughts of suicide is endangering their life.

Suicide is the third highest cause of death among 12 to 19-year-olds in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and those figures are on the rise.

One of the best things you can do to prevent suicide and suicidal ideation is to reach out for help if you know your child is in crisis or suffering from depression or another condition.

Treatment for Suicidal Ideation in Teenagers

Due to the possible outcome of suicidal ideation, it is crucial to seek help now, if your child confides in you that they are thinking of taking their life.

It is better to react quickly than leave the possibility of any harm.

If you are unsure what to do, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you seek treatment for your teen at the hospital, first responders and hospital personnel can assess your child’s risk, then connect you with proper care from behavioral or mental health treatment centers from there.

Learn how you can help your child manage depression and avoid suicidal ideation by contacting Embark Behavioral Health today.

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Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health is a leading network of clinics and programs offering premier mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults. Dedicated to its mission of reversing the trends of adolescent and young adult anxiety, depression, and suicide by 2028, Embark is unlike any other behavioral health organization in the United States. Embark offers a full continuum and spectrum of services, a unique 25-years of specialization, a deep legacy of serving youth, and a set of internationally validated outcomes that drive treatment in real-time. For more information about Embark or its treatment programs, including wilderness therapy, long-term residential treatment centers, short-term residential treatment centers, day treatment, partial hospitalization (PHP) programs, intensive outpatient programs (IOP), outpatient, and virtual counseling.