Preventing Teen Suicide Can Start with a Simple Question

youthRecent reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate suicide rates for youth age 15-19 have been increasing since 2007. And recently, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why sparked conversations among youth, parents, school personnel, and the media. Many of us now wonder what we can do to help.

The answer begins with a question – U OK?

Most people believe that asking a teen if they’re thinking about suicide will put the idea in their head. This is a common myth. If you’re concerned that a young person might be suicidal, chances are good you’re right. Asking about suicidal thoughts makes it okay to talk about and helps the teen know he/she is not alone.

While there are many national efforts to prevent youth suicide, the bottom line is that prevention happens on the personal level, one-on-one, when we step beyond our own comfort level to help someone else. Since none of us knows when we will be in a situation to do this, it’s critical to be prepared.

National Suicide Prevention Week is September 10-16. I encourage you to get involved by:

  • Learning the signs for youth suicide and how to help
  • Sharing awareness campaigns through social media and email
  • Talking to a youth (a friend, a student, your son/daughter) you're concerned about
  • Being there for someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts and/or has made an attempt. Feeling connected to friends, family, faith community, sports teams, teachers, coaches, etc. is a critical factor in protecting youth.
  • Hosting a suicide prevention/awareness event


Written by Amy Kulp, M.S., Deputy Directory, American Association of Suicidology