WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Although it is often said that the teen and college years should be the best time in a person's life, the risk of suicide is high among these young people, an expert warns.

In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 14 to 25 years, according to Maureen Dasey-Morales, a psychologist from Wichita State University.

Dasey-Morales advised that people who suspect someone they know is having suicidal thoughts should not hesitate to get involved.

"One of the biggest myths about suicide is that asking somebody if they're thinking about hurting themselves will increase the risk of it happening," she said in a university news release. "And in fact, asking is one of the main things somebody can do to prevent suicide from happening."

Another falsehood is that these at-risk teens and young adults are weak or selfish, noted Dasey-Morales. "The reality is that most people who are thinking about hurting themselves feel like others would be better off without them or that somehow there isn't a way out for them, and so part of helping them is to instill hope," she said.

When a young person is contemplating suicide, Dasey-Morales pointed out, there are a number of red flags others may notice, including:

  • Withdrawal from friends and usual activities
  • Mood swings
  • Plotting to hurt oneself
  • Abusing alcohol and other drugs
  • Expressing the wish to die or escape
  • Impulsivity

The most important thing, Dasey-Morales concluded, is that young people having thoughts of suicide should not struggle alone, and they should be made aware of the options available to them to get help.

More information

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides more information on college students and suicide.