National Suicide Awareness Month: Warning Signs and Action Steps

Mental-Health-America-Porter-CountyMental Health America of Porter County is joining our community in supporting National Suicide Awareness Month. According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System’s national study in 2011, 15.8% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide. 12.8% of students nationwide had made a plan about how they would attempt suicide. 7.8% of students had attempted suicide one or more times. 2.4% of students had made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse.

Left untreated, depression can lead some youth to take their own lives. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds.

Warning signs of suicide

Four out of five teens that attempt suicide give clear warnings. If you suspect that a child or adolescent is suicidal, look for these warning signs:

  • Threats of suicide—either direct or indirect.
  • Verbal hints such as “I won’t be around much longer” or “It’s hopeless.
  • Obsession with death.
  • Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection.
  • Putting affairs in order (for example, giving or throwing away favorite possessions).
  • Sudden cheerfulness after a period of depression.
  • Dramatic change in personality or appearance.
  • Irritability.
  • Hallucinations or bizarre thoughts.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
  • Changes in school performance.


What Should Parents and Other Adults Do if They Think a Child Is Suicidal?

  • Ask the child or teen if he or she feels depressed or thinks about suicide or death. Speaking openly and honestly allows the child to confide in you and gives you a chance to express your concern. Listen to his or her thoughts and feelings in a caring and respectful manner.
  • Let the child or teen know that you care and want to help.
  • Supply the child or teen with local resources, such as a crisis hotline or the location of a mental health clinic. If the child or teen is a student, find out if there are any available mental health professionals at the school and let the child know about them.
  • Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional that has experience helping depressed children and teens.
  • Alert key adults in the child’s life—family, friends, teachers. Inform the child’s parents or primary caregiver, and recommend that they seek professional assistance for their child or teen.
  • Trust your instincts. If you think the situation may be serious, seek immediate help. If necessary, break a confidence in order to save a life.


If immediate assistance is needed, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room. For local emergency services you can call Porter-Starke Services 219-531-3500. Someone is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 877-SUICIDA (784-2432) [Spanish]. People in Northwest Indiana can call the Crisis Center 219-938-0900 or 800-519-0469.

MHAPC offers programs that can assist individuals and families. Building Up Our Youth (BUOY) is dedicated to teaching parents how to instill positive self-esteem and security in their children. For more information about BUOY or our other services please contact Christine Pirlot, Program Director at 462-6267 or