Finding Help for a Suicidal Teenager

Jan 24, 2024 | Adolescent Treatment, Communication, Family Issues, Helping a Loved One, Mental Health, Suicide

The struggles that many young people now face, like school-related pressure, social challenges, and the murky waters of social media, can lead to feelings of despair and a desire to escape. If this goes on for long enough, it can manifest as suicidal ideation in teens. It’s become more important than ever for parents and educators to be vigilant and informed about the signs of suicide in teenagers. In this blog, we explore various ways to help a suicidal teenager, including the treatment options that are available through New Dimensions Day Treatment Centers.

Understanding the Problem

Teenagers experience a wide range of emotions and challenges as they transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s normal for them to face ups and downs during this period. However, adults need to be able to differentiate between typical teenage mood swings and the signs of serious issues that could lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.

Recognizing the Signs:
  • Drastic Changes in Behavior: Sudden and severe changes in behavior, such as withdrawing from friends and family, excessive anger, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, can be indicators of distress.
  • Verbal Clues: Sometimes, teenagers may express their feelings directly. They may make statements like “I can’t go on,” “I wish I were dead,” or “I want to end it all.” These should not be taken lightly.
  • Isolation: A teenager who becomes increasingly isolated, both physically and emotionally, may be struggling with their mental health. They might avoid social interactions, including those with close friends and family.
  • Self-Harm: Some teenagers turn to self-harm as a coping mechanism. This can manifest as cutting, burning, or other forms of self-inflicted injury.
  • Substance Abuse: Escalating drug or alcohol use can be a way for teenagers to self-medicate and numb their emotional pain.

While these signs may indicate a problem, they don’t necessarily mean a teenager is suicidal. They are a reason to be concerned and initiate a conversation with the teen to understand their emotions and thoughts.

Initiating a Conversation

Sparking a thoughtful, non-judgmental conversation with a suicidal teenager is the first step towards helping them. When approaching the topic:

  • Choose a private and comfortable setting.
  • Listen actively and attentively.
  • Avoid blaming or shaming them.
  • Let them know you care and want to help.
  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to express their feelings.
Treatment Options

When it becomes clear that a teenager is struggling with suicidal thoughts, professional intervention is often necessary. Treatment options include therapy, medication, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), Partial Hospital Program (PHP), and support from family and friends.


In some cases, medication may be prescribed by a psychiatrist to manage underlying mental health issues. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or anti-anxiety medications are common options. However, medication is usually used in conjunction with therapy and under the close supervision of a medical professional.

Support Systems

Support from family and friends is invaluable in a teenager’s recovery. Ensure that the teen has a network of individuals who are understanding, patient, and willing to provide emotional support.

How New Dimensions Can Help

Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient: NDD’s intensive outpatient services (IOP) and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) for teens are designed to address the needs of those who require structured and focused mental health treatment while continuing their educational and family commitments. We help teens aged 13 or over address their internal conflicts and provide tools that they can carry with them into adulthood.

Therapy: In addition to the in-house services we provide, we also offer therapy-based services through our partner MHThrive. With their help, patients receive either the one-on-one or group therapy they need to recover and heal. Teens can benefit from this therapy option in a way that is different from adults. As a struggling teenager, it may feel as though they have no one they can trust or turn to, even if that isn’t the case. Therapy provides an unbiased outlet that can help them feel in control and supported as they work on becoming healthier and happier.

Individual Counseling: One-on-one counseling sessions provide a confidential space for individuals to address the psychological and emotional aspects of alcohol addiction.

Family Therapy: Family therapy sessions are excellent for creating a greater level of support, especially when at home. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page and allows for increased understanding.

Prevention and Aftercare

Preventing future episodes of suicidal ideation is just as important as treating the immediate crisis. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Safety Plan: Develop a safety plan with the teenager that outlines what they should do if they experience another crisis. Include emergency contact information, strategies for coping with overwhelming emotions, and warning signs that may signal a return of suicidal thoughts.
  2. Ongoing Therapy: Continue therapy even after the acute crisis has passed. Mental health issues often require ongoing treatment and support to maintain recovery. Even when it feels like they are in a good place, continuing therapy can help them retain their newly developed coping skills.
  3. Support Groups: Encourage your teenager to join support groups that align with their interests and needs. These can provide ongoing emotional support that is different from family support.
  4. Family Education: Make sure that family members understand the teenager’s mental health challenges and how to provide support without making stress worse.
Final Thoughts

Helping a suicidal teenager is scary for both you and them. They might not be able to understand what they are feeling, which is why parental and professional involvement is so critical. Being able to identify the warning signs and taking swift action is the key to keeping your teen out of harm’s way. Treatment options available through New Dimensions can help your teen work through their challenges and come out on the other side.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you know a teen who needs therapy or support for mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help.  We have outpatient counseling programs for adolescents and adults.  To learn more about our services, including Psychological Testing, Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), and Interventions for Substance Abuse, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at  To learn more about individual, family, and couples counseling visit


  • Becker M, Correll CU. Suicidality in Childhood and Adolescence. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2020 Apr 10;117(15):261-267. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2020.0261. PMID: 32449889; PMCID: PMC7268098.
  • Cavelti M, Kaess M. Adolescent suicide: an individual disaster, but a systemic failure. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2021 Jul;30(7):987-990. doi: 10.1007/s00787-021-01834-2. PMID: 34196818; PMCID: PMC8295147.
  • Shankar R, El Kady R, Aggarwal A. Youth Suicide: A Population Crying for Help? A System Overloaded? Who Can Help? Mo Med. 2020 Jul-Aug;117(4):370-374. PMID: 32848275; PMCID: PMC7431062.