Suicidal Ideation Child



Thinking about or planning to take your own life is called suicidal ideation.


Suicide is often the result of many factors. These will differ from child to child. Many children are having problems coping with stress. They may feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

They may also have a mental health problem such as depression . This can cause suicidal thoughts alone. It can also make stress much worse.

Risk Factors

Chances of suicidal ideation are higher if a child has:

  • Substance use problems
  • Any mental health problem such as depression, ADHA, autism, or anxiety
  • Problems with self-harm
  • A long-term health problem

It's also higher for:

  • A lack of a support system
  • Poor coping skills
  • Major changes in their lives such as problems at school or with other people in their lives
  • Prior trauma or abuse
  • Those who are bullied
  • Prior behavior that was impulsive or violent
  • Prior suicide in the family
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide
  • Taking certain antidepressants or anti-seizure medicines
  • Prior suicide attempts
  • Easy access to items that could be used for self-harm such as guns
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A child who is thinking about suicide may:

  • Talk about wanting to die or take their own life—it's vital to take any talk about wanting to die seriously
  • Talk about feelings of despair
  • Plan for death such as by giving away favorite items
  • Withdraw from family and friends

They may also be:

  • Irritable
  • Indifferent
  • Very moody
  • Have problems staying focused
  • Doing poorly in school
  • Uninterested in activities such as school and hobbies
  • Doing self-harm such as cutting or burning
  • Losing or gaining weight
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Change how they look or not care about hygiene
  • Using alcohol or drugs

These can happen without suicidal ideations. But, if someone you know has these signs, try to talk to them to find out what's going on. Asking about these feelings will not push someone to take their own life. But, it may help save them.

If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it is vital to seek help right away. There are many suicide hotlines to help. They will give out information for friends and family of someone thinking about suicide.

If the risk high, call for emergency services right away. Risk is high if the person has a thought-out plan to take their own life or can get items that can cause harm.


You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. Other people in the family may also be questioned.

Your child will have a psychological exam. You and they will answer questions about their mental health.



Your child may be treated in a hospital. This is mainly true if they are at high risk or have tried to take their own life.

Single, family, or group therapy will be used to help handle suicidal thoughts.

The goals of care are:

  • Get treated for any mental, physical, and substance abuse problems
  • Make it harder to get items that may be used for self-harm
  • Build a support system of family, friends, and mental health experts
  • Build skills in problem solving, dealing with conflicts, and handling problems through non-violent means


To help lower your child's chances of suicidal ideation:

  • Follow any plans to treat illnesses your child has.
  • Encourage your child to avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • If your child has difficulty coping with stress, have them to talk to you, a family member, friend, or therapist.
  • Make it harder for them to get items that may be used for self-harm.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Suicidal Thinking)


American Psychiatric Association 

Mental Health America 


Canadian Mental Health Association 

Canadian Psychiatric Association 


Depression in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed September 4, 2020.

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Klonsky ED, May AM, Glenn CR. The relationship between nonsuicidal self-injury and attempted suicide: converging evidence from four samples. J Abnorm Psychol. 2013;122(1):231-237.

Victor SE, Klonsky ED. Correlates of suicide attempts among self-injuries: a meta analysis. Clin Psychol Rev. 2014;34(4):282-297.

Warning signs of suicide. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education site. Available at: Accessed September 4, 2020.

We can all prevent suicide. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. Available at: Accessed September 4, 2020.