Teen Suicide Prevention and How COPES Can Help

depressed teen. for an article on teen suicide prevention and COPES in tulsa

COPES, a program of Family & Children’s Services, focuses on helping prevent teen suicide.

The epidemic of teen suicide affects thousands of families each year. In 2004, statistics showed suicide as the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for over 30,000 deaths.

Oklahoma ranks 14th nationally in number of suicides reported and 3rd in suicide as cause of death for ages 15 to 24. Teens continue to be a high risk group. An estimated 500,000 teenagers try to kill themselves every year, and approximately 5,000 succeed.

These numbers are startling. Suicide is a major, preventable and treatable public health problem. Understanding risk factors, knowing warning signs and symptoms, and communicating known issues are all imperative in order to dissuade adolescents from thoughts of suicide.

Parents and adults who interact daily with teens must first educate themselves to recognize certain risk factors that correlate with suicidal behavior. For instance, stressful life events combined with other components play a significant role in creating negative behavior.

Adolescents often allow new experiences to overwhelm them, and many first time events trigger undue stress. Teens encounter volumes of stress that often go unchecked: dealing with death for the first time, having a best friend move away, constant bullying, and similar events cause stress which may lead to depression in young adults.

The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression.

Depression is a difficult disease to diagnose, and teens at risk for suicidal behavior may have few, if any, outward signs as to their emotional state. Knowing the early signs of depression and having an awareness of any altered behavior significantly helps prevent suicide.

Warning Signs of Depression

Warning signs and behaviors include: persistent sad moods, expressions of worthlessness or hopelessness, pessimistic or guilty reactions, fatigue or loss of interest in ordinary activities, disturbances in sleeping patterns, a preoccupation with death, heightened irritability escalating to aggression, difficulty controlling mood and emotions, poor coping skills, and constant relationship conflicts.

Adolescents displaying these types of behaviors run the risk of suicidal tendencies.

Other immediate, more severe factors associated with suicide include impulsive behavior linked with substance abuse, history of suicide attempts, and exposure to aggressive or violent behavior in others including family members, peers, or media figures.

If a teen exhibits four or more of any symptoms listed, and the symptoms last more than a few weeks, seek help. Observing and acting on early warning signs dramatically aids in the prevention of teen suicide.

Dealing with difficult and unfamiliar behavior often leaves parents unsure of what to do or where to go for help. Children often become aggressive or hard to manage when expressions of suicide or a preoccupation with violence occur.


These types of cases require immediate intervention to calm the situation and open lines of communication. Family & Children’s Services of Tulsa offers many programs to aid parents with depressed, out-of-control, or suicidal teens and children. The services are available to anyone, regardless of age.

One of these programs, COPES (Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services), specifically addresses immediate suicidal threats and crises. COPES stresses the importance of taking action in critical situations and specializes in offering rapid response to any psychiatric emergency.

COPES provides 24/7 telephone stabilization support and mobile crisis intervention for, not only teens, but also adults and children of all ages in Tulsa County.

The goals for each call received by the team: assess the situation and level of risk, stabilize the crisis, either by phone or on-site, intervene, and provide community linkage for those experiencing psychiatric emergencies.

COPES. team members collaborate with child welfare workers, schools, and even law enforcement officers to help crisis line callers. COPES served over 5,000 persons in 2007.

One of the best preventions for suicide remains open and honest discussion. Communication leads the way for intervention to occur and is vital in any crisis. COPES works round the clock to help provide that intervention.

Suicide is not an easy or comfortable topic to discuss, but the conversation may help at-rsik teens realize the consequences of self-destructive behavior.

When children, teens, or adults experience suicidal thoughts, threats of suicide, depression or anxiety, aggressive behavior towards others, or other severe emotional distress, the intervention offered by C.O.P.E.S. may be the first step in getting someone on the road to recovery. To contact C.O.P.E.S., call 918-744-4800.

To learn more about the wide variety of programs offered by F&CS, visit fcsok.org.

Categories: Teens, Tweens & Teens