As summer begins to give way to autumn weather and the fall semester is well underway, it’s an ideal opportunity to remind parents and caretakers that today’s teens face unique stressors and social pressures with the potential to pose serious risks to their mental health and well-being.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time for survivors, loved ones, mental health experts and suicide prevention organizations to raise awareness about the importance of providing support and treatment for those who need it most, especially young people, said Dr. Cheryl L. Green, a board-certified psychiatrist and professor at Loma Linda University School of Medicine.

Dr. Cheryl L. Green, a board certified psychiatrist and author of “Heal Your Daughter: How Lifestyle Psychiatry Can Save Her from Depression, Cutting, and Suicidal Thoughts,” discusses the “staggering statistics” regarding teen suicide and offers suggestions for ways parents can help.

Modern-day stressors – from social media pressures to bullying (in person or online) to gender identity concerns – disproportionately impact today’s teenagers, especially teen girls, Dr. Green told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol. Even everyday expectations placed on typical teenagers (by peers, parents and society) – such as having hectic schedules, pursuing academic achievements, fitting in with friends or even making fashion choices – may begin to feel overwhelming for many teens without adequate support and guidance, she explained.

Common stressors such as these and many others (discussed below) have the potential to lead to “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, which is essentially depression,” said Dr. Green. In fact, according to the most recent data included in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), a set of surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that tracks behaviors in students grades 9 through 12, 57 percent of female high school students have reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless, and the rate for male students is 29 percent. 

Dr. Green described the depression rates in teens as a “crisis” that merits our attention, in particular, because feelings of hopelessness can be a risk factor for contemplating suicide.

Alarming Statistics

According to 2021 data from the CDC, youths and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24 account for 15 percent of all suicides in the United States. While the suicide rate for this age group is lower than other age groups (accounting for 11 suicides per 100,000 youths and young adults every year), suicide is the second leading cause of death among this age group. In addition, the suicide rate for this age group has increased by 52 percent between 2000 and 2021.

In the past 60 years, the suicide rate for males 15 to 24 years of age has quadrupled, and it has doubled for females in the same age range. Firearms remain the most commonly used suicide method among young people, accounting for 49 percent of all completed suicides.

For every completed suicide by a youth or young adult, it is estimated that between 100 and 200 individuals have attempted to take their own life. In fact, pointed out Dr. Green, YRBSS data shows that 13 percent of teen girls and 7 percent of teen males have attempted suicide in the past year, and 18 percent of all teenagers have made a suicide plan sometime in the last 12 months.

“These are incredible numbers – definitely staggering,” said Dr. Green, noting that despite her professional experience working for an in-patient psychiatric facility in the Los Angeles area, she was “floored to see [the numbers] in black and white.” 

“The kids are not okay,” she said. “We really do need to do something.”

Stressors and Risk Factors for Teens

Doing something can begin with learning about the stressors that teens commonly have. Citing the Child Mind Institute, Dr. Green said some sources of stress can begin in the home, with parents divorcing, the death of a parent, a parent losing their job or even the loss of the family home due to financial difficulties.

Risk factors that can compound everyday problems can include: being bullied or cyberbullied, a family history of suicide, isolation or lack of social support, depression or psychiatric disorders, substance use, prior suicide attempts, feeling stigma about getting help, having access to lethal means (such as firearms or prescription medications), being sexually harassed or assaulted, and/or being LGBTQ+ (especially for those who struggle with their gender identity, said Dr. Green).

According to data from “Understanding the Impact of Hate: Mental Health,” a community forum presented in late August by the California Commission on the State of Hate, a recent national study showed that between two-thirds and three-fourths of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ reported being bullied from “sometimes” to “often” before turning 18 years of age.

In addition, sexual-minority youths who live in neighborhoods with higher rates of LGBTQ+ hate crimes are significantly more likely to think about or attempt suicide.

Watch for Red Flags

Dr. Green urges parents and caretakers to watch for red flag warning signs that could indicate their teen may need urgent help, especially any sudden or dramatic changes in their behavior, such as not eating, extreme change in mood, self-medicating (alcohol, prescription meds or illegal drugs), sleeping too much or not wanting to get out of bed, or complete self-isolation. 

One of the most concerning things to keep an eye out for is any signs of cutting or other forms of self-harm, said Dr. Green, emphasizing that it can often lead to planning or attempting suicide.

It’s also vital to listen to any concerns expressed by your teen’s friends or by their friends’ parents, she added. The bottom line for parents and caretakers: Do your best to “pay attention.”

Ways to Help

Dr. Cheryl L. Green, a board-certified psychiatrist and author of “Heal Your Daughter: How Lifestyle Psychiatry Can Save Her from Depression, Cutting, and Suicidal Thoughts,” discusses the “staggering statistics” regarding teen suicide and offers suggestions for ways parents can help.

If anything seems concerning, “run, don’t walk” to check the browser history on your teen’s computer, to see if they are looking up any information related to suicide, said Dr. Green, who offers insights and suggestions for parents and caretakers in her book, “Heal Your Daughter: How Lifestyle Psychiatry Can Save Her from Depression, Cutting, and Suicidal Thoughts.” 

If you suspect your child is potentially suicidal, take them to an emergency room right away, said Dr. Green emphatically. She suggested that parents should restrict access to any firearms in the home, lock up all medications, and even hide belts, ropes and knives.

If the concern doesn’t appear imminent, try to connect them with a private or community mental health provider who can provide one-on-one counseling or other forms of therapy. School districts can also help connect teens to supportive emotional and mental health services.

Unfortunately, because our healthcare system is overburdened, there might be a waiting period to get mental health services or limited counseling sessions, admitted Dr. Green. As such, parents can “step up” and educate themselves about the basics of “lifestyle psychology,” which includes nutrition, detoxification, exercise, sleep, emotional connectedness and stress reduction.

In addition to any therapy or lifestyle changes, “open and honest communication” with your teens and spending quality time together should always remain a priority, stressed Dr. Green.

“Talking is key,” she said. “Always keep trying, even if they don’t seem interested.”

According to Dr. Green, a parent, grandparent, stepparent or other caretaker who makes an effort to communicate and spend time with a teen – with the goal of creating a “very strong connection” – is creating a potentially “life-saving bridge” for that child. 

“That is the biggest thing – to form that strong emotional bond,” she said. If your teen pushes you away, you can gently push back and “you might be surprised to get a response eventually.”

“You just have to keep trying because you want your kid to know that you’re there for them,” she said.

Helpful Resources

During the recent forum presented by the California Commission on the State of Hate, a representative of the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) said the organization offers a wide range of mental health and crisis resources for people of all ages, including teens and families, such as support groups, multi-week courses and even a crisis text line. For free 24/7 crisis support via text message, text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Those seeking help can also call or text “988” for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). Information is also available online at:

Dr. Cheryl L. Green offers suggestions for parents in her book “Heal Your Daughter: How Lifestyle Psychiatry Can Save Her from Depression, Cutting, and Suicidal Thoughts.”