How to cure teen and adult cutting

How to cure teen and adult cutting

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is in crisis, please click here for information about seeking help.

Cutting is a popular way for teens to self-injure without the intent of suicide. Using scissors, razor blades, pins, pens, or other sharp objects, some teenagers puncture or cut their skin in various places on the body. If you’re a parent, you are probably wondering, “Why would they do that?” The answers may surprise and scare you.

Simply put, cutting is a maladaptive coping mechanism during times of stress and anxiety that is rarely accompanied by suicidal thoughts. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, self-harming behavior such as cutting has no single cause. It does not discriminate across cultural and socioeconomic levels, but the behavior is predominately carried out by females.

Reasons behind teen cutting are varied. Often it can be categorized by those who already feel numb as a way to experience intense emotion and pain. Numbness may be due to being emotionally overwhelmed for too long, which almost short-circuits the system into a feeling of dullness—neither happy nor sad. Teens who feel numb often identify that the only way to feel alive is to cut.

Another way to categorize cutting is as a release of emotions, similar to a drain when the sink is overflowing. Teens who feel burdened by stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotions may use cutting to vent the unwanted leftovers of those difficult feelings.

Other reasons for cutting include an intense and overriding feeling of aloneness, feeling helpless, and feeling the need to punish or blame for something that happened.

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The theory behind why teens use cutting as a coping mechanism reasons that endorphins play a major role. When teens cut, endorphins rapidly invade the bloodstream, resulting in a feeling of pleasure and relief. For some teens, the cutting and the endorphin release make them feel “high.”

Take for example, a 16-year-old girl who is a high academic achiever, member of the elite volleyball team, and a positive role model for her younger sisters. She is an all-around overachiever, earning money babysitting and as a lifeguard, striving to excel in school to make sure she gets into a prominent university. Her volleyball team travels on the weekends, and she is looked at as a leader to the other members. In addition, she volunteers at her church and with her community. She dresses well and in fashion, and is always attempting to make sure her hair is perfect. Although she doesn’t love her body, she knows it could be worse, since she’s an athlete and in somewhat decent shape physically.

Emotionally, however, she’s not in shape, nor positive, nor excelling. She is overburdened by academia, struggling to achieve all A’s in her advanced classes. She has to study from the minute she gets home from school until volleyball practice, and then more upon returning. She is not sure her grades will get her into a “good enough” college. She is worried that her best friend is mad at her, and she’s certain that her father hates her. To make matters worse, her right knee has been bothering her, but she doesn’t tell anyone for fear that her team will be mad at her. She has had to cancel when invited out because she had too much homework and she promised her best friend she’d be available if she needed to talk.

At first glance, this teen seems to have a full and rich life, with opportunity abounding. However, she’s so overwhelmed that at night she uses her desk scissors to slice her wrists repeatedly. To make sure no one suspects anything, she hides the bloody tissues at the bottom of the trash can. She wears stacks of bracelets to cover the damage so no one asks. She doesn’t know what else can release the pressure she feels from school, family, friends, and her team. She heard about cutting during lunch a few years ago, and now uses scissors to pour her emotions out.

This is real life for some teens. As much as parents are disgusted by the idea, and instinctively react with shock about what their child has done to their body, it is an unwanted aftereffect of overworked, overscheduled, overwhelmed children. Never before have we put the same amount of pressure on our children and teens to succeed academically, socially, and beyond.

While it may not make sense that they cut their bodies, it makes sense that they find a way to release the pressure. Without learning new coping skills and understanding their triggers, teens often end up alone in their pressure-cooker lives. Through counseling, teens can learn how to handle distress, how to prioritize in their lives, and how to communicate about their feelings.

How to cure teen and adult cutting

Cutting help and cutting treatment is available and is effective. Self-injury cutting is a possibly lethal form of self-harm that injures many people per year.

Cutting treatment can be provided in residential facilities, in outpatient programs, in groups or even one-on-one. Anyone who wants to stop self-harm can do it by engaging with cutting help and treatment for cutting.

Cutting is any form of self-harm that breaks the skin and causes bleeding. Any form of cutting should be taken seriously because while likely not a direct suicide attempt, self-harm is correlated with a higher-than-average risk of suicide. (More on self-harm and suicide and the effects of self-injury)

Inpatient Cutting Help

Some facilities offer inpatient (live-in) cutting help and treatment. This type of cutting treatment might be a good idea for someone who has previously tried and had unsuccessful treatment or for someone who frequently cuts and believes they cannot stop without direct supervision. An inpatient cutting treatment program may include: 1

  • Different types of therapy such as individual, group and family
  • Self-injury evaluation
  • Impulse control management classes
  • Education on self-harm
  • Medication management (where needed)
  • Case management
  • Collaboration with other professionals
  • Planning for care after leaving the facility

Programs that offer cutting treatment often involve multiple professionals to aid in care. Part of the program might be:

  • A psychiatrist
  • A psychologist
  • A registered nurse
  • Support staff
  • Specialized therapists

Inpatient programs can be very expensive ($20-30,000/month) and intense and so require a commitment on the part of the patient that they do want to stop cutting and will try their hardest during cutting treatment.

Outpatient Cutting Treatment

Some cutting treatment programs are still very intensive but operate on an outpatient basis; where the patient attends treatment during the day but continues to live at home. This type of cutting help often includes similar types of services to inpatient cutting treatment but requires greater individual responsibility over not cutting due to the lesser oversight.

When attending cutting treatment, the patient is often asked to sign a document promising they will not harm themselves while in the program. A patient may also be asked to identify alternative self-injury coping methods up-front and be expected to use these instead of self-harming. (Self-Injury Self-Help: Self Help Coping Skills for Self Harm)

Therapeutic Cutting Help

A person may instead elect to seek out less intensive cutting therapy. This may be in the form of group therapy or individual counseling. Therapists who are licensed and specialize in self-harm are the best choice for cutting help. This type of therapy might be found through a treatment center but can also be found in the community or through mental health organizations. Common forms of therapy for cutting treatment include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy

Medication Cutting Help

Medication is rarely prescribed for cutting treatment, when cutting or self-harm is the only problem present. Many people who cut, however, also have underlying mental illnesses and so those must be treated when undergoing treatment. These underlying illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, depression or borderline personality disorder, may require the use of psychiatric medication and other specialized treatment.

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McLean Hospital Guest Blogger
Michael R. Hollander, PhD

How to cure teen and adult cuttingApproximately 14 to 18 percent of high school students and between 12 to 35 percent of college students in the United States engage in some form of self-injurious behavior at least once. The age of onset often occurs in early adolescence, between the ages of 11 and 14.

While self-harm is of serious concern for parents, families, and teachers, it’s important to know that when the right approach and treatment is provided in a timely manner, this behavior is highly treatable. But kids who self-harm need treatment right away. Giving in to pleas for more time and delaying treatment can lead to further, more serious injury. While we often hear about the number of teens who engage in this behavior, the majority who are treated appropriately can go on to lead happy, healthy lives.

Is an act of self-harm a form of suicide? Can it lead to suicide?

This type of self-harm is known as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), which by definition is the deliberate, intentional damage to one’s body tissue without the intention of dying. There is no intention of suicide, however, there can be a high correlation with suicide if self-injurious behavior goes untreated.

Why do adolescents cut or engage in other self-harm activities?

It’s most often a way of trying to manage emotions. For example, when teens cut themselves, they will usually experience a sense of calmness. It also appears that the vast majority of teens who self-injure are those who have a high degree of self-criticalness and self-loathing. Self-injury helps them to contain their emotions. Or conversely, if they feel numb and empty, they use self-injury to feel something.

A small percentage of teens use self-injury for avoidance or to create a distraction. An even smaller percentage use it to get attention. And for a very small group of kids, they use it to punish themselves because they feel they don’t deserve to live, breathe, or take up space. They may cut themselves in the context of an extreme emotional situation.

This is a group of highly-emotional and sensitive adolescents who frequently feel things more intensely than their peers, but that doesn’t necessarily distinguish who would engage in self-injury. This type of behavior is about not having the skill set to modulate emotions in conjunction with a high degree of self-criticalness. There are other factors that can come into play as well, such as co-occurring mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use, and/or a history of trauma.

What are the most effective ways to respond to an incident of self-harm behavior?

When consulting with parents or speaking to community groups, these are the main points I make:

  • It’s important to not overreact. Try to assume a matter of fact approach, without judgment. Try to stay open minded and validate the teen’s emotions. Validation is key to keeping an open dialogue.
  • Get an assessment of whether or not the behavior is self-injurious in order to manage one’s feelings or if the intention is to commit suicide.
  • Assuming the behavior is non-suicidal, I suggest that parents start with their primary care doctor to help find a therapist who is highly trained and has a track record of treating adolescents with self-injurious behavior.
  • Elements of successful treatment for self-injury include individual therapy with a skills component such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is a type of cognitive therapy that helps one increase emotional and cognitive regulation by improving coping skills. It’s also important to include family skills training and family therapy.

Michael R. Hollander, PhD, is the director of training and a senior consultant for 3East, McLean Hospital’s DBT treatment program for adolescents, and an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, part-time, at Harvard Medical School. A nationally recognized expert on the causation and treatment of self-injury, he has been treating adolescents and their families for over 40 years and lectures throughout the United States on this subject. His book, Helping Teens Who Cut: Understanding and Ending Self-Injury, was published in 2008. Additional information on self-harm can be found in the webinar “Assessing and Treating Self-Injury”, led by Dr. Hollander as part of McLean’s Borderline Personality Disorder Patient and Family Education Initiative.

How to cure teen and adult cutting

When people think of self-harm, they often picture a teenage girl cutting herself, but self-harm in adults is more common than people realize. Adult self-injury (also known as self-harm or self-mutilation) is not limited to a particular age nor a gender.

“Stereotypically people think that self-injury happens only among teenagers and young women, but it also happens with older, middle-aged females and males,” says Harrell Woodson, PhD, director of the Menninger Hope Program, which treats adults with mental illness. The Program is participating in a clinic-wide initiative to learn more about self-injury and to develop new protocols to treat it, since it is a frequent health issue among Menninger patients. 1

Adult self-injury is commonly comprised of cutting or burning the skin, or banging one’s head repeatedly against a wall. Dr. Woodson notes adult self-mutilation is often more difficult to treat than that of younger people, as adults may have been self-harming since childhood. The ingrained behavior, then, may be one of the only ways the adult knows how to deal with stress; one of the major causes of self-injury.

Adult Self-injury and Mental Illness

Adult self-mutilation may be a sign of a psychiatric disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. It’s not known how many adults self-mutilate and it’s likely that adult self-harm is underreported due to the shame and guilt associated with the behavior. People are very likely to hide adult self-injury and many do not seek help.

Left untreated, self-harm in adults, and the accompanying psychiatric disorders, can be dangerous. While the majority of people who self-mutilate are not suicidal (read about self-harm and suicide), it’s easy to accidentally induce a life-threatening wound during acts of self-injury. Adults that self-mutilate may be at higher risk of this than their younger counterparts. 2

“Self-injurious behavior can cause irreparable physical damage and can even lead to death, from cutting too deeply, getting an infection or going into shock,” Dr. Woodson says.

Why Do Adults Self-Injure?

There are many reasons an adult may self-injure:

  • Adult self-injury may be an attempt to keep loved ones concerned and connected. This is often seen in borderline personality disorder.
  • As in teens, self-mutilation in adults may be the result of a severe trauma such as sexual abuse or childhood neglect.
  • Self-harm in adults may be used to distract from other painful life events. It may also be a release of the emotional pain associated with stressors like marriage problems, work or parenting issues.
  • Adult self-injury may also be as a result of on-going symptoms of psychosis which causes adults to have a break from reality. “They are being commanded to hurt themselves,” Dr. Woodson says. “They may hear a voice bargaining with them, telling them that if they don’t bang their head 13 times, something bad will happen.”

Treatment of Adult Self-Injury

Because adult self-injury behaviors can be very ingrained, it can be challenging to find other coping techniques. For adults, self-injury may be one of the few parts of their lives in which they feel complete control. This may mean they are reluctant to change their behavior and can make self-injury treatment more difficult.

The desire for behavior change needs to come from the patient rather than as a demand from the mental health professional or family members, Dr. Woodson says. Motivational interviewing techniques put the majority of the responsibility for behavior change in the hands of the patient.

“With motivational interviewing, you capitalize on the patient’s ambivalence—in terms of the pros and cons of continuing that behavior, in a non-confrontational way,” Dr. Woodson continues. “Traditionally, admonishing people about the consequences of self-injurious behavior doesn’t work very well.”

Triggers of adult self-mutilation must be identified and new coping strategies put in place. One self-harm alternative recommended by professionals is to put a rubber band around the wrist that can be snapped when the urge to self-injure becomes too strong.

Treatment of self-harm in adults may also include medication, particularly when the self-harm co-occurs with a psychiatric illness. Group therapy is also common. Patients in group therapy discuss what they could do differently in response to particular stressors, situations, thoughts and feelings rather than harming themselves. Groups are an effective form of treatment for self-injury, Dr. Woodson says, because patients learn new insights and adaptive behaviors from their peers as well as receiving support and encouragement.

How to cure teen and adult cutting

Statistics on teen cutting are hard to come by because so few studies have been done on the subject.

Broad estimates are that about one percent of the total U.S. population, or between 2 and 3 million people, exhibit some type of self-abusive behavior. But that number includes those with eating disorders like anorexia, as well as those who self injure. (1)

A 2002 study published in the British Medical Journal estimated that 13 percent of British 15- and 16-year-olds purposely injure themselves. (2)

In the U.S., it’s estimated that one in every 200 girls between 13 and 19 years old, or one-half of one percent, cut themselves regularly. Those who cut comprise about 70 percent of teen girls who self injure.

Two of the most alarming facts about teen cutting are these:

  • the number of cases is on the rise, and
  • without treatment, many who begin cutting themselves as teens will continue the behavior well into their adult years.

Treatment visits for teens who self injure have doubled over the past three years. And those numbers are expected to grow as life becomes more complex for teenagers. Directors at self-injury treatment programs refer to this growth trend as an epidemic that reaches even into middle schools.

The profile of a typical self-injurer looks like this. She’s female in her mid-20’s to early 30s, and has been cutting herself since her teens. She’s intelligent , middle or upper-middle class, and well educated. She also comes from a home where she was physically and/or sexually abused and has at least one alcoholic parent. (3)

A 2008 publication by the US National Library of Medicine reports the following nonsuicidal self injury (NSSI) statistics: (5)

  • 1/3 to 1/2 of US adolescents have engaged in some type of self injury.
  • Cutting and burning are the most common types of non-suicidal self-injury.
  • 70% of teens engaging in self-injury behavior have made at least one suicide attempt.
  • 55% had made multiple suicide attempts.
  • 55% of self-injurers said, “I wanted to get my mind off my problems”. (5)
  • 45% said, “It helped me to release tension or stress and relax”. (5)

Parents who discover their child is cutting typically are shocked and immediately blame themselves for failing as a parent. Therapists say that parental self-blame is NOT helpful.

Remember, cutting is a behavioral sign of a deeper underlying problem. The goal should not be to get your child to “stop cutting,” but to treat the deeper problem so your teen develops more mature coping skills and no longer feels the need to self-injure.

Here are some tips for dealing with this serious issue.


  • React with anger.
  • Go into denial about the problem.
  • Assume this is a “phase” your teen will outgrow.
  • Say “What did I do wrong as a mother (father) for you to do this to yourself.”
  • Ask “Why are you doing this to yourself?”
  • Try to hide sharp objects. It’s an ineffective deterrent. If your child wants to self-injure, he or she will probably find a way.


  • Admit you and your child need help.
  • Take the problem very seriously. This is not just attention-seeking behavior.
  • Be completely supportive.
  • Immediately seek treatment for your child.

If you suspect your teen is cutting, talk to your family physician or your local public health department to find a mental health treatment program that can help.

Parents are cautioned to understand that treatment probably won’t simply be a matter of medication and/or a few visits with a therapist. Treatment often includes medication combined with individual and family therapy over a sustained period of time.

Don’t assume that your child is “okay” once he’s in treatment and making progress. As with treatment for any habitual behavior, setbacks are not uncommon. Some teens report cutting episodes even after a year of therapy, although episodes typically become less and less frequent the longer a teen is in treatment.

It’s tough to find yourself going back to cutting when you worked so hard to overcome your struggle. Falling back into a bad habit is known as a relapse, and relapses are pretty common when people are trying to make a major change. If you relapse, it might seem like you’re back where you started. But change is a learning experience, and a relapse is part of learning a new way of doing things.

You can get back on track.

Start by thinking about what triggered the relapse. Think about the emotions or situations that led you to cut. For example, were you feeling misunderstood, lost, alienated, desperate, or angry?

Then remind yourself why you decided to stop cutting before. How did you do it then? Write down what worked for you. Reach out to someone who cares about you. Think about how to express powerful emotions in ways that don’t cause harm. Some people turn to painting, dance, athletics, music, poetry, or keeping a journal as ways to get through the pain. Others find they need more support from a counselor or therapist — everyone is different and different people cut for different reasons.

It can also help to remember that you’re not really back where you started — this time you’ve got previous success on your side. You know how it’s done and, more important, you have done it. You can find the inner strength to do it again.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an effective form of treatment for self-harm issues such as cutting. DBT is unique in the ways it engages patients and helps to reshape their viewpoints about themselves and their personal interactions.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral-psychotherapy developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan. It was originally developed as a way to treat borderline personality disorder.

DBT works to eliminate unwanted behavior through the enhancement of an individual’s self-image, interpersonal skills, and decision-making skills. DBT often includes the use of cognitive role-playing and talk-based therapy.

During a DBT session, the counselor will often re-enact certain events from the life of the patient. Through a series of questions, the counselor establishes how the individual can change his behavior in order to bring about a different, more productive outcome. This allows the therapist to make suggestions to modify the individual’s behavior without seeming controlling or judgmental.

Dialectical behavior therapy has been proven effective in the treatment of several different conditions including self-harm and cutting, drug addiction, alcohol addiction and borderline personality disorder.

What is Self-Harm Behavior?

Individuals who injure themselves without the intent of committing suicide are referred to as self-harm patients. The behavior is generally seen through cutting, hair pulling, or picking at the skin compulsively.

Self-harm behavior has its roots in a variety of events and mental conditions, including:

  • Past physical abuse
  • A history of sexual abuse
  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Eating disorders (such as bulimia or anorexia)
  • Low self-esteem.

Self-harm behavior is a dangerous practice. Normally, self-harm is most commonly seen in young people around 12 years old and continues (if left untreated) throughout the teenage years and on into the early twenties.

Cutting and Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Therapists have found success in treating individuals with cutting issues through the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. DBT engages the individual in ways that standard therapy may not. Some examples include:

  • The use of role-playing helps the individual learn how to form stronger personal relationships. These activities raise his self-esteem and diminish the feelings that can lead to cutting behavior.
  • Teaching the individual how to cope effectively with stressful situations. Stress is one of the most common factors behind self-harm. By using talk therapy as a means of creating individualized strategies for coping with stress, the DBT helps reduce the need for self-harm.
  • Enhance the worldview of the individual so he understands the impact his actions have on friends, family and the rest of society.

Michael’s House is a residential drug rehabilitation facility that uses dialectical behavior therapy to treat individuals with self-harm issues, drug addiction as well as a number of other conditions. As one of the leading DBT-friendly facilities in California, Michael’s House is at the forefront of this exciting new treatment modality. If you would like more information, please call us today. One of our admissions counselors will be glad to answer your questions. Please contact Michael’s House at 760-548-4032 now.

Suicide is when a teen causes his or her own death on purpose. Before attempting to take his or her own life, a teen may have thoughts of wanting to die. This is called suicidal ideation. He or she may also have suicidal behavior. That’s when a teen is focused on doing things that cause his or her own death.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people ages 15 to 24. The CDC reports that:

  • Boys are 4 times more likely to die from suicide than girls.
  • Girls are more likely to attempt suicide than boys.
  • Guns are used in more than half of youth suicides.

What causes a teen to attempt suicide?

The teen years are a stressful time. They are filled with major changes. These include body changes, changes in thoughts, and changes in feelings. Strong feelings of stress, confusion, fear, and doubt may influence a teen’s problem-solving and decision-making. He or she may also feel a pressure to succeed.

For some teens, normal developmental changes can be very unsettling when combined with other events, such as:

  • Changes in their families, such as divorce or moving to a new town
  • Changes in friendships
  • Problems in school
  • Other losses

These problems may seem too hard or embarrassing to overcome. For some, suicide may seem like a solution.

Which teens are at risk for suicide?

A teen’s risk for suicide varies with age, gender, and cultural and social influences. Risk factors may change over time. They are:

  • One or more mental or substance abuse problems
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Undesirable life events or recent losses, such as the death of a parent
  • Family history of mental or substance abuse problems
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical, sexual, or verbal or emotional abuse
  • Past suicide attempt
  • Gun in the home
  • Imprisonment
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as from family or peers, in the news, or in fiction stories

What are the warning signs of teen suicide?

Many of the warning signs of suicide are also symptoms of depression. They are:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Acting-out behaviors and running away
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Neglecting one’s personal appearance
  • Unnecessary risk-taking
  • Obsession with death and dying
  • More physical complaints often linked to emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Loss of interest in school or schoolwork
  • Feeling bored
  • Problems focusing
  • Feeling he or she wants to die
  • Lack of response to praise

Another warning sign is making plans or efforts toward committing suicide:

  • Says “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide.”
  • Gives verbal hints, such as “I won’t be a problem much longer,” or “If anything happens to me, I want you to know . ”
  • Gives away favorite possessions or throws away important belongings
  • Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • May express weird thoughts
  • Writes 1 or more suicide notes

These signs may look like other health problems. Make sure your teen sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is a teen diagnosed as being suicidal?

Threats of suicide are a cry for help. Always take such statements, thoughts, behaviors, or plans very seriously. Any teen who expresses thoughts of suicide should be evaluated right away. Talk with your teen’s healthcare provider.

Any teen who has tried to commit suicide needs a physical checkup first to rule out life-threatening health problems. He or she should then get a mental health evaluation and treatment until he or she is stable. This often will take place at an inpatient facility to make sure of the child’s safety.

How is a teen treated for suicidal behavior?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Treatment starts with a detailed evaluation of events in your teen’s life during the 2 to 3 days before the suicidal behaviors. Treatment may include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy. Parents play a vital role in treatment.
  • An extended hospital stay, if needed. This gives the child a supervised and safe environment.

How can I help prevent my teen from attempting suicide?

Learning the warning signs of teen suicide can prevent an attempt. Keeping open communication with your teen and his or her friends gives you an opportunity to help when needed. Also take these steps:

  • Keep medicines and guns away from children and teens.
  • Get your teen help for any mental or substance abuse problems.
  • Support your teen. Listen, try not to offer undue criticism, and stay connected.
  • Become informed about teen suicide. Resources include the public library, local support group, and the Internet.
  • Know the warning signs for depression:
    • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or loneliness
    • Declining school performance
    • Loss of interest in social and sports activities
    • Sleeping too little or too much
    • Changes in weight or appetite
    • Nervousness, agitation, or irritability

    Teens can take these steps to help prevent suicide if they see warning signs in a friend:

    • Take their friend’s behavior and talk of suicide seriously.
    • Encourage their friend to seek expert help. Go with the friend, if needed.
    • Talk with an adult they trust about their friend.

    When should I call my teen’s healthcare provider?

    Call your teen’s healthcare provider right away if your teen:

    • Feels extreme depression, fear, anxiety, or anger toward him or herself or others
    • Feels out of control
    • Hears voices that others don’t hear
    • Sees things that others don’t see
    • Can’t sleep or eat for 3 days in a row
    • Shows behavior that concerns friends, family, or teachers, and others express concern about this behavior and ask you to seek help

    Call 911 if your teen has suicidal thoughts, a suicide plan, and the means to carry out the plan.

    Key points about teen suicide

    • Suicide is when a teen causes his or her own death on purpose.
    • Suicidal ideation is when a teen has thoughts of wanting to die.
    • Suicidal behavior is when a teen is focused on doing things that cause his or her own death.
    • Normal developmental changes combined with stressful life events may cause a teen to think about suicide.
    • Many of the warning signs of suicide are also symptoms of depression.
    • Any teen who expresses suicidal thoughts should be evaluated right away.

    Next steps

    Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

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