When a Teen is Suicidal

Youth Specialties
June 7th, 2016

This post originally appeared on JIM’S BLOG and we thought it was so wonderful that we wanted to share it too!

If you’re in youth ministry, you will inevitably encounter a teen who is at least somewhat suicidal. It’s a scary thing that must be taken seriously. Because of it’s danger, I’ll cut to the chase here and get to the most important things that you must do when a kid is suicidal.

1. ASK

These are the four most commonly recognized important questions to ask of a person who may be at risk of suicide. This is a good place for you to start. However, you must have a mental health professional conduct a more thorough assessment if needed.

  1. PLAN – Do you have a suicide plan?
  2. MEANS – Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)?
  3. TIME – Do you know when you would do it?
  4. INTENTION – Do you intend to commit suicide?

Below is a grid that will help you determine their risk level.

Level of Suicide Risk
LOW – Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Say they won’t commit suicide.
MODERATE – Suicidal thoughts. Vague, non-lethal plan. Say they won’t commit suicide.
HIGH – Suicidal thoughts. Specific, highly lethal plan. Has access to means. Say they won’t commit suicide.
SEVERE – Suicidal thoughts. Specific, highly lethal plan. Has access to means. Say they will commit suicide.

2. ACT

If risk is LOW to MODERATE

Contact parents/guardians if there is even a low risk. You have an ethical and legal obligation to inform them. You’re risking the teen’s life, your job, and your church’s viability if you don’t. Encourage parents to bring their teen to see a counselor for an assessment.

If risk is HIGH to SEVERE

Stay with the teen, call their parents first then bring them to the local hospital emergency room or call 911. If your conversation is over the phone, stay on the phone with them while contacting authorities on another line if possible. If necessary, hang up and call 911 immediately.


When a teen is at their lowest point they need you or some other caring adult to walk beside them through this dark valley. Don’t give up on them. Don’t hand them off to the professionals and forget about them. Don’t allow your discomfort and self-doubt keep you from walking with them. Simply the faithfulness of your relationship, love, and care, will help them more than you realize.

This information is not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This information and more is provided by HelpGuide.org.

jim murphyJim Murphy, is the NextGen Pastor at The Covenant Church in Bemidji, MN, where he supports the work and ministries of other staff and volunteers to kids, students, and young adults. He’s been in vocational ministry since 1992 and loves teaching kids, equipping leaders, and encouraging other youth pastors. When he isn’t working or spending time with Deanna, his wife of 20+ years, and his two daughters, Natalie and Greta, he tries to post what he’s up to in ministry on THENEXTGENBLOG.COM.

Youth Specialties

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