What Causes Suicide and Who Is At Risk?
Suicide affects a lot of teens and young adults. A quarter of college-age students and one in five high school students seriously considered suicide in the past year, and suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, please know that you are not alone, there is good help available, and you can feel better.
Check out What You Need to Know About Suicide to find:
- Detailed resources for getting help.
- Advice on how to tell someone you are thinking about suicide.
- How to get help for suicidal thoughts.
- Advice on how to ask someone if they are considering suicide.
- How to get help for someone you know.
There are people ready to help you at any time of day.
- Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
- If you feel unsafe right now, text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
- If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.
What Causes Suicide?
A lot of things can contribute to someone having suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For most people, there is not one clear cause. There are some things that can make someone more vulnerable to the distress and hopelessness that can lead to considering suicide, but they don’t cause suicide directly.
Things that can influence suicidal thoughts and behaviors include:
- Early childhood experiences
- Family environment
- Mental health outlook, or how someone perceives things to be improving or worsening
- Mental illness, including major depressive disorder and PTSD
- Willingness to seek help
- Coping skills
- Support networks
- Stressors and life challenges
- Trauma history
- History of bullying or stressful peer relationships
- Substance misuse
- Losing someone you know to suicide
- Exposure to storylines in TV shows and films that feature suicide
Are Certain Groups More at Risk for Suicide?
Like any mental health issue, anyone can experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Among teens and young adults, research shows that some groups are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, engage in suicidal behaviors, and attempt suicide.
- Someone who has attempted suicide in the past or has a family history of suicide is at a higher risk for future attempts.
- Young people who identify as LGBTQ and face hostile environments at school or home, or who experience rejection from their families, are more likely to consider suicide.
- Women and girls are more likely to attempt suicide, while boys and men are more likely to die by suicide. In part, that’s because of the means of suicide: Men typically choose more violent methods than women do.
Key Suicide Stats Among Teens and Young Adults
- The suicide rate among children and young adults has been increasing steadily since 2015. There was a slight drop in 2019, but numbers rose again in 2020.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds.
- The suicide rate among 13- to 30-year-olds is growing fastest among Black people (55% increase from 2010 to 2019), White Hispanics (54%), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (48% increase from 2010 to 2019).
- In 2020, 25.5% of adults ages 18 to 24 reported having seriously considered suicide in the past month, a higher percentage than any other adult age group.
- Among college students, 13% had serious thoughts of suicide, 5% made a suicide plan, 1% attempted suicide, and 23% engaged in non-suicidal self-injury in the past year.
- Nearly 20% of high school students reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, and 8.9% of high school students attempted suicide in the past year. The percentage is highest among females (11%), Black teens (11.8%), and lesbian, gay, or bisexual teens (23.4%).
- More than 40% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.