Youth Suicide

Although suicide rates are lowest among youth, suicide in this age group is a significant public health issue, representing the second leading cause of death among adolescents (ages 10–19) in Wisconsin and nationally for many years. From 2013–2017, 271 adolescents died by suicide in Wisconsin.

In addition to Wisconsin Violent Death Reporting System data, this portion of the report shows data from the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which is conducted as part of a national effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health-risk behaviors of the nation’s high school students. The YRBS was completed by 2,067 high school students from 43 public, charter, and alternative high schools in Wisconsin during spring of 2017.


Figure 20. Youth in Wisconsin exhibit a number of suicidal behaviors, as reflected in information from the YRBS report. For example, approximately 1 in 6 Wisconsin public high school students considered suicide during the past 12 months. A similar number of students made a plan about how they would attempt suicide, and nearly 1 in every 13 students reported a suicide attempt. Approximately 3% of students reported a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury. Students who attempted suicide also reported higher victimization rates.


Figure 21. Youth exhibit different behaviors prior to a suicide than their adult counterparts. For example, youth were significantly more likely than adults to leave a suicide note. Youth who died by suicide were significantly more likely to have a history of suicidal thoughts or plans than adults who died by suicide, and youth who died by suicide were also significantly more likely to disclose their suicide intent to a friend than adults (who were more likely to disclose to an intimate partner).

Analytic note: *Analysis limited to only individuals that disclosed suicidal intent.


Figure 22. Family problems, which were reported in approximately 1 in 3 youth, were significantly more likely to contribute to suicide among youth when compared to adults. School problems were also significantly more likely to contribute to suicide among youth. Approximately 1 in 4 youth who died by suicide had a reported school problem.

Trends in Youth Suicide

During the 1990s and early 2000s, suicidal ideation and suicides among youth decreased. However, the trend has reversed in recent years and rates have started to increase again, both in Wisconsin and nationally. According to a report based on 2017 YRBS data, Youth suicide is one of the most pressing problems facing schools and their communities.6 In addition, the most recent YRBS data showed an uptick in young females considering suicide.


6. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Wisconsin’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Special Topic: Suicide.