Suicide among teens within the United States were at a record high level in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are many hypotheses for why this is, some of which I’ve discussed in earlier essays, but in honor of National Suicide Prevention week this month, I wanted to focus on the risk factors for suicide.

Risk factors for suicide include: previous suicide attempts, drug or alcohol use, history of psychiatric diagnosis, poor self control, a history of abuse, a history of family suicide, feelings of hopelessness, health problems, or a recent loss (physical, emotional, or financial). Additionally, teens who identify as LGBTQ have a higher risk for attempting suicide.

The presence of even one risk factor should be taken seriously and warrants a deeper conversation with your teen. These conversations are difficult, but it is important to remain calm and matter of fact. Prompt discussions by asking directly if your teen is considering suicide or has considered it recently. If your teen has, s/he should be evaluated professionally.

Remember that teens who are considering suicide often feel that there is no hope for them, which makes it necessary to persist in your attempts to get them help.

Now that school has begun again, keep in mind that you can always contact the school counselor. The school counselor will have access to a professional screener and referrals for intervention. If you are in the Northwest Arkansas area, the Teen Action and Support Center provides assessments and counseling services specifically geared towards teenagers and their families. You can reach TASC at 479-636-8272 to schedule an appointment. Services are based on a low-to-no cost sliding fee scale.