Virginia Teens & Suicide

Suicide, Youth

In 2022, the annual Virginia school safety audit found that 13% of Virginia high school students (27,946 students in total) have seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months. What can you do, as a parent, do about this mental health crisis?

Virginia High School Students and Suicide

In 2022, the nearly 28,0000 Virginia high school students who’d considered suicide reported that they:

  • Asked for help from a doctor or counselor (39%)
  • Made a plan about how to attempt suicide (56%)
  • Attempted suicide one or more times (59%)

This shows that teens who’ve reported considering suicide in the last 12 months are:

  • Likely to attempt suicide at least once
  • Willing to ask for help

This means that in order to combat the problem of teen suicide in Virginia, we must:

  • Be vigilant for warning signs of suicidal ideation
  • Make sure that teens know that help is available and that it’s not shameful to ask for help

Related: The Growing Youth Mental Health Crisis

Warning Signs That Your Teen Might Be Thinking About Suicide

Risk Factors for Suicide

Risk factors for suicide include:

  • An existing mental health condition
  • A serious physical health condition, including pain
  • Prolonged stress, like bullying, harassment or relationship problems
  • Stressful life events, like rejection, a divorce, a transition, a financial crisis, etc.
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
  • Previous suicide attempts or a family history of suicide
  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

Warning Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

Warning signs that someone is having suicidal thoughts include:

  • Talking about suicide, feeling hopeless, being a burden to others, having no reason to live, feeling trapped, unbearable pain, etc.
  • New or increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from others
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Saying goodbye to people or giving away favorite items
  • Depression, anxiety, irritability or anger
  • A sudden improvement in mood or mental health symptoms – this may mean they’ve made the decision to die by suicide

How to Let Your Teen Know That Help Is Available – And That It’s Not Shameful to Ask For Help

You might think that not talking about depression or suicide makes it less likely that your child or teen will think about or experience those things, but data shows that that’s not true.

Mental health issues are still unfortunately a taboo subject, and that’s especially true for suicide, but it’s crucial to keep an eye out for signs of mental health concerns or suicidal ideation. If the thought of sitting down with your teen and talking about suicide is nerve-wracking, start with a mental health check-in.

Simply begin a conversation with your teen and then ask a few questions, like:

  1. When you feel really sad or really mad, what do you do? How do you let those feelings out?
  2. Do you ever feel like you need someone to talk to, but don’t know who to talk to?
  3. How is your body feeling lately? Have you had any stomach aches or headaches?
  4. Has there been anything going on at school or with your friends that’s been upsetting you?
  5. What’s the biggest problem that you’re facing right now?
  6. What’s the best thing that happened to you this week? What about the worst?
  7. Have you had any problems sleeping lately? Do you feel less hungry or more hungry than usual?
  8. Have you ever felt so sad or lonely that you wanted to hurt yourself?
  9. What makes you feel excited and happy these days?
  10. How do you take care of yourself – both your body and your mind? 

Making regular mental health check-ins with your teen a priority will ensure that you have a better idea of what’s going on in their life, and in their head.

Fight Stigma by Keeping an Open Mind and Talking Openly About Mental Health

Creating an open and nonjudgmental environment at home is the best way to foster good mental health in your teen. If they feel that they can come to you or another trusted person with any problem they have, they’re more likely to do so. If you teach them how to manage difficult emotions, they’ll be better equipped to handle life’s challenges. And if you’re honest about your own struggles, you can help to fight the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage your child to be open about their own experiences.

Support for Virginia Teens Struggling With Suicidal Thoughts

In the Greater Tidewater Hampton Roads Area, also known as coastal, southeastern Virginia, Region Five is your central point-of-access for behavioral health support services.

We provide:

If you or someone you love needs to talk to someone right away, please don’t hesitate to call our crisis call center. The center is staffed with trained counselors who will listen and provide resources that can help.

Call or text 988 to reach someone who can help. If you have a 757 area code, you can reach the local crisis center faster by calling 757-656-7755.

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