How Parents Can Help Reduce Suicide Risk in Teens

The Centre for Suicide Prevention, a branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, reports that teens are admitted to the hospital for suicide attempts more than any other age group. And suicide accounts for 24 percent of all deaths among 15-24 year-olds.

​​​​Unfortunately, parents are often at a loss when it comes to suicide prevention.

King and Vidourek (2017) found that 3 parenting behaviours significantly reduced suicidal thoughts in teenagers:

  • Telling your child that you are proud of them.
  • Telling them that they have done a good job.
  • Helping your child with their homework.

More specifically, the researchers found that when teens complete a questionnaire pertaining to suicidal ideation and parenting behaviours, teens who indicated that their parents were never or rarely proud of them were 5 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts.

In addition, teens who reported that their parents never or rarely told them that they did a good job, or never or rarely helped them with homework, were 7 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts.

And teens who reported that the 3 aforementioned parenting behaviours were lacking were 7 times more likely to have a suicide plan and attempt it.

Takeaway Message

These 3 parenting behaviours are important to be aware of when parenting teenagers.

But it’s important to note, these are simply 3 influencing factors amongst many more that can contribute to suicidal ideation in adolescents.

If you suspect that your teen is experiencing suicidal ideation, it is critical that you take it seriously and contact a health care professional immediately.

3 Strategies To Assist With Suicide Prevention

Approximately 17% of high school students report seriously considering suicide at some point during their high school career.

Clearly, this is a vitally important topic, so let’s take a closer look at 3 strategies that can help.

1. Physical Activity Helps

There are numerous studies that show the positive impact of physical exercise on mood.

In the Journal of Archives of Internal Medicine, Blumenthal et al. (1999) found that taking a brisk walk 3 times a week was more effective at treating depression than taking the antidepressant medication, Zoloft.

Now, if your teenager happens to take an antidepressant medication, it doesn’t mean that they should stop and replace it with walking.

This is the result of a single study, and it is vitally important to follow your family physician or nurse practitioner's advice. However, it does highlight the importance of being physically active, at least at a moderate level. 

The researchers also found that two-thirds of the study participants in the walking groups no longer met major depression criteria after 16 weeks of walking 3 days/week. 

So, clearly, it’s important for parents to promote consistent physical activity with their teens.

2. It Helps To Have Someone To Confide In

Baiden et al. (2016), in the Journal of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviour, found that when study participants had someone to confide in, they were 38% more likely to experience recovery from depression.

Not only that, but study participants were 7 times more likely to report almost daily happiness or at least satisfaction with life.

This suggests the importance of keeping the lines of communication open with your teen and letting them know they can always confide in you.


3. Cognitive Therapy Works

Suicide rates have remained consistent for teens in Canada for the last 10 years.

Despite increased awareness about this crucial issue, there has yet to be a decline in the number of suicides.

And when someone has attempted suicide, they are at an increased risk for a future suicide attempt, so effective treatment for this group is vital.

Brown et al. (2005), in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that individuals who recently attempted suicide were 50% less likely to attempt suicide again within 18 months when treated with cognitive therapy.



Cognitive therapy is a treatment method that focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviour, emphasizing unhelpful or inaccurate thinking and developing better, more accurate ways of thinking.

In this study, there was a particular focus on changing thoughts related to the feeling of depression and feelings of hopelessness.

Many studies support both Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as highly effective treatment methods for treating depression and suicidal ideation.

So, if your teenager struggles with either depression or suicidal ideation, I would highly encourage you to consider making an appointment for your teen with a mental health professional who has training in Cognitive therapy or Cognitive Behavioural therapy.

Are you surprised at the statistics mentioned in this article?

What strategies do you find effective for teenage depression?

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Article by

Trevor Sullivan, MA, RP

Registered Psychotherapist

October 6, 2020