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Teen Suicide

- September 12, 2014
Do suicide-prevention programs work?
  • Overview
  • Current Situation
  • Chronology
  • Pro/Con
  • More...
Featured Report

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 13- to 19-year-olds, after unintended injury and before homicides, and the teen suicide rate has risen recently. Yet researchers and mental health professionals cannot pinpoint why the rate has climbed, and they know little about what causes someone thinking about suicide to attempt it. Moreover, the ability to predict who is at immediate risk is limited. As a result, suicide screening tools are of limited effectiveness, and most school-based suicide-prevention programs may not reduce teen suicides. Yet researchers are hopeful that new studies, including large trials of three kinds of psychotherapy in adolescents, will increase understanding of teen suicide and lead to better identification and treatment of high-risk teens. Meanwhile, a growing number of states are requiring educators to be trained to recognize and respond to potentially suicidal youths. Additionally, researchers have begun delving into physical brain characteristics that might be connected to teen suicide.

Federal Legislation

Advocates are pushing for more research funding.

State Legislation

Teacher-training requirements are increasingly common.

Neurobiology of Suicide

Scientists are searching for answers inside teen brains.

1890s–1960sField of suicidology is established; first crisis center opens.
1970s–1990sFamilies touched by suicide form grassroots organizations; Congress passes resolutions calling suicide prevention a national priority.
2000s-PresentCongress creates a grant program for youth suicide-prevention programs…. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires controversial warnings on antidepressants about their suicide risk.

Should doctors universally screen teen patients for suicide risk?


Kelly Posner
Founder and Director, Center for Suicide Risk Assessment at Columbia University; Principal investigator of the FDA/Columbia Suicide Assessment Project.


Lloyd I. Sederer
Medical Director, New York State Office of Mental Health; adjunct professor, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health; author, The Family Guide to Mental Health Care.
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