Suicide is a growing concern in the United States. Statistics show that since 1998, suicide has increased from the eighth leading cause of death to the third; killing 8% more teens than cancer. Why then is so little attention focused on this issue? One reason is that suicide is a disorder that is commonly misunderstood. Another, is people rarely consider suicide to be a problem that may affect them; and subsequently it is usually too late when they come to this realization. Also, unlike many other topics, the media does not reveal the severity behind suicide and its causes. More should be done to promote the research and prevention of suicide in teenagers.
Many consider suicide to be nothing more than a choice made and implemented by a person, therefore, it is random and untreatable. Contrary to this belief, suicide is in fact a disorder that can be diagnosed and treated. People with suicidal tendencies typically display one or more of the following traits: mental disorders, substance abuse disorders, family history of mental or substance abuse disorders, family history of violence and/or abuse (being either mental, physical, or sexual in nature), continual contact with or access to firearms (used in more than 50% of all suicides), incarceration, previous exposure to suicidal behaviors from family, peers, or forms of media, stress, bullying, and even helplessness. By observing these factors, therefore, suicidal tendencies can be caught early on and prevented with the proper course of action.
Mental disorder and substance abuse disorders account for more than 90% of all teenage suicides. The most common mental disorder in relation to suicide is depression. Depression is an illness that involves your body, your mood, your thoughts and it affects the way one thinks about himself. Symptoms of depression are different with different people. It alters the way a person thinks, the way they feel, their behavior, and even their physical well-being. A teenager living with depression may not have the same healthy thoughts as a person not living with depression. Because they are depressed, they do not understand the options available to help them from relieving themselves from suffering. Many depressed teenagers think that they will suffer their whole lives; never experiencing a happy future. They have a difficult time remembering happiness in their pasts, so they think they will make the pain go away by just killing themselves. Of all the people who commit suicide, 80% give warnings such as: direct verbal clues like "I'm tired of life." Or "Who cares if I'm dead anyway?" And the indirect verbal clue of these would be a sad expression upon the teenager's face or the teenager sighing frequently, Camouflaged verbal clues like saying "Soon I won't be around." And behavioral clues such as: buying a firearm, stockpiling pills, putting affairs in order, sudden interest in wills, funerals, and life insurance, selling or giving away possessions, visits to sick call when not sick, frequent illness, excessive weight loss or gain, drug or alcohol abuse. Understanding that teenage suicide warning signs are serious calls for help, is a method that can be used to greatly reduce the annual number of deaths among teenagers. People can become aware of this by increased the media exposure on the issues and can inform the parents and teens of the warning signs, as well as, what they can do to help someone who they fear may be suicidal; therefore, giving them the opportunity to help decrease the number of deaths among young teenagers in this manner (Franklin).
Recent studies have confirmed the link between firearms and suicide. It has been proven that a young adult is 4 to 10 times more likely to take their life if they are raised in a house where firearms are present. It is best if there are no firearms around the home where teenagers are present. The reason being, it could increase the chance of them committing suicide by making it easier for them to actually succeed in doing so. If there are guns present in the home, keep them unloaded and locked away safely. Locking the trigger of the gun whilst having the bullets locked away in a different location is also a good idea. Do not allow the teen to have access to where the guns and bullets are stored. If a teen becomes depressed or has severe mood swings, store the gun outside the home for the time being.
Furthermore, teens that do drugs are at a higher risk of committing or thinking about committing suicide. The involvement of drugs and alcohol has a depressive effect on the brain. Misuse of these substances can bring on serious depression, and inhibit the teen's ability to think rationally. This is especially true for some teens that already have a tendency to become depressed for reasons such as their biology, family history, or other life stressors. Many teenagers who are depressed turn to alcohol or drugs as an escape. What they may not realize, however, is that the harm these substances cause on the brain can actually intensify depression in the long run. In addition to their depressive effects, alcohol and drugs alter a person's judgment. They interfere with the ability to assess risk, make good choices, and effectively apply their problem solving skills. Many suicide attempts occur when a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This does not mean that every teen who is depressed or who has an alcohol or drug problem will try to kill themselves. But these conditions, especially when existing together, increase a person's risk for suicide.
Sometimes a situation such as a breakup, a big fight with a parent, an unintended pregnancy, being harmed by abuse or rape, being outed by someone else, or being victimized in any way can also cause a teen to feel desperately upset. In these types of situations, teens may fear humiliation, rejection, social isolation, or some terrible consequence they think they can't handle. They create beliefs about themselves, for example: "I am unloved or unwanted", "Something is wrong with me." These limiting beliefs cause a feeling of hopelessness in the teen who then sees no way out of his problem. Suicide attempts can occur under conditions like these because, in desperation, some teens - at least for the moment - feel the have no worth or reason to live, and for this reason, they impulsively act against themselves. Sometimes teens who feel or acts suicidal mean to die and sometimes do not. Sometimes a suicide attempt is a way to express the deep emotional pain they're feeling in hopes that someone will get the message they are trying to communicate.
Teenagers, like adults, experience stress everyday and can benefit from learning stress management skills. Most teens experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and do not have access the resources they need in order to cope. Some sources of stress for teens might include: school demands and frustrations, negative thoughts and feelings about themselves, changes in their bodies, problems with friends and/or peers at school, unsafe living environment/neighborhood, separation or divorce of parents, chronic illness or severe problems in the family, death of a loved one, moving or changing schools, taking on too many activities or having too high expectations, and even family financial problems. Some teens become overloaded with stress. Teenagers should be given the tools they need in order to manage stress. If a teen talks about or shows signs of being overly stressed, a consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist or qualified mental health professional may be helpful.
In addition to depression, there are other emotional conditions that can put teens at greater risk for suicide - for example, girls and guys with conduct disorder are at higher risk. This may be partly because teens with conduct disorder have problems with aggression and may be more likely than other teens to act in aggressive or impulsive ways to hurt themselves when they are depressed or under great stress. The fact that many teens with conduct disorder also have depression may partly explain this too. Having both serious depression and conduct disorder increases a teen's risk for suicide.
Bullying and teen suicide have now become synonymous. In researching bullying and suicide, there seems to be a new catchword that has become part of the growing trend of bullying in schools. It's called bullycide, which is "suicide caused by bullying and depression." Victims of chronic peer abuse run an increased risk of suicidal behavior. Many teens face being potential victims of violence in their communities, schools and homes on a daily basis. For some young people, those external threats create a hopelessness and depression that can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.
Despite the efforts of people to stop a teenager from committing suicide, some succeed. The statistics reporting considered and completed suicide are shocking. Ten percent of teenage boys admit that they have attempted suicide. Girls in their teens have a much higher percentage (eighteen percent) who admit that they unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide. A teenager in 1990 was twice as likely to die from suicide as a teenager who grew up in 1960. One of the most startling teenage suicide facts is that since 1961, there has been a tripling of completed teenage suicide.
When a teenager is able to successfully commit suicide, they leave behind family and friends. In a normal death situation, people usually feel grief. When a teenager performs suicide, family and friends left behind experience many feelings. A feeling of confusion and great distress over unresolved issues is very common. Family members and friends often feel anger and resentment after a suicide. A deep sense of guilt is typical present because they feel they should have done more to help the person. These emotions can cause friends and family to become very isolated. A friend or family member may find that it is difficult to relate to other people after a suicide. These people may decide that other people view them as a failure because they were unable to stop someone close to them from committing suicide. A fear of forming new relationships after a person has completed suicide is common. People feel that by creating new relationships, they might be hurt and experience the same pain they are going through. In order to help people who have experienced the suicide of someone they deeply cared about, "survivor groups" have been created. Knowing they will be accepted without being judged or condemned, helps a person go to a "survivor group." At a meeting, the people's intense burden of unresolved feelings may be lessened. Suicide is the third leading killer among teenagers (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). Suicide can be committed for a number of reasons. Anyone who talks about suicide should be taken to see a professional. The most important way to prevent suicide is to talk.
In conclusion, knowledge and understanding of suicide and its cause is the best way to prevent it. By observing the warning signs, one can intervene and redirect the teens planned course of action. This solution is accompanied by addressing the overall health of children, which has demonstrated success. Providing effective, targeted, and community-based mental health services for teenagers who are identified to be at risk for suicide, is the another suicide prevention tactic which has proven to be highly effective. Research shows that early intervention strategies that target risk factors for depression, substance abuse, aggressive behaviors, and building resiliency may have promising effects in preventing teenage suicide. Ensuring that youth have adequate access to mental health services through mental health parity legislation is another prevention tactic. Also having meetings at schools with the students would help prevent teenagers from committing suicide because they will have someone to talk to who can understand what it is they are going through. It would also help if parents would sit down with their children and talk to them about their life and if they are experiencing any overwhelming problems. Below is a chart that shows the suicide rates per 100,000 populations of male and female teenagers for the years 1980 through 1996 and between the ages 15 and 19.