Steve Sarner, M.D., is chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Atlantic Health System’s Newton Medical Center


Q: What should parents and other adults do if they think a child Is suicidal?


A: It can be hard to know how to deal with all the things life throws at us. For some, sometimes death seems like the only option. More young people survive suicide attempts than die, but even one death is too many. It’s important to know that there is help and there is hope. Suicide is the number two cause of death among young people ages 10-24.


Four out of five teens that attempt suicide give clear warnings. If you suspect that a child or adolescent is suicidal, look for these warning signs:


Threats of suicide—either direct or indirect.


Verbal hints such as "I won’t be around much longer" or "It’s hopeless.


Obsession with death.


Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection.


Putting affairs in order (for example, giving or throwing away favorite possessions).


Sudden cheerfulness after a period of depression.


Dramatic change in personality or appearance.


Irritability.


Hallucinations or bizarre thoughts.


Changes in eating or sleeping patterns.


Changes in school performance.


If you think someone you know is at immediate risk of suicide, you need to ACT.


A is for ASK: Ask your friend if they are considering suicide or if they have a plan to end their life. It’s OK to be direct. Just try to be non-judgmental and show you care.


C is for CARE: If you think someone is in immediate danger, stay with them and offer to go with them to find help. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you, try your best to sympathize and offer support. Try not to leave someone with suicidal thoughts alone.


T is for TELL: Tell a trusted adult what’s going on. Your friend might ask you not to tell anyone, but you should never keep talk of suicide a secret. It is worth breaking trust to save a life. You should never try to handle the situation by yourself. The most helpful thing you can do is guide your friend to someone with training.


Trust your instincts. If you think the situation may be serious, seek immediate help. If necessary, break a confidence in order to save a life. Suicide is preventable. With help comes hope. Help a loved one, a friend or yourself. Call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Free, confidential and available 24/7.