Teen Suicide - by Sue Scheff


Suicide is the third most common cause of death amongst adolescents between 15-24 years of age, and the sixth most common cause of death amongst 5-14 year olds. It is estimated that over half of all teens suffering from depression will attempt suicide at least once, and of those teens, roughly seven percent will succeed on the first try. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to the threat of suicide, because in addition to increased stress from school, work and peers, teens are also dealing with hormonal fluctuations that can complicate even the most normal situations.


Because of these social and personal changes, teens are also at higher risk for depression, which can also increase feelings of despair and the desire to commit suicide.


In fact, according to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) almost all people who commit suicide suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder or substance abuse disorder. Often, teens feel as though they have no other way out of their problems, and may not realize that suicidal thoughts and feelings can be treated. Unfortunately, due to the often volatile relationship between teens and their parents, teens may not be as forthcoming about suicidal feelings as parents would hope. The good news is there are many signs parents can watch for in their teen without necessarily needing their teen to open up to them.


At some point in most teens’ lives, they will experience periods of sadness, worry and/or despair. While it is completely normal for a healthy person to have these types of responses to pain resulting from loss, dismissal, or disillusionment, those with serious (often undiagnosed) mental illnesses often experience much more drastic reactions. Many times these severe reactions will leave the teen in despair, and they may feel that there is no end in sight to their suffering. It is at this point that the teen may lose hope, and with the absence of hope comes more depression and the feeling that suicide is the only solution. It isn’t.


Teen girls are statistically twice as likely as their male counterparts to attempt suicide. They tend to turn to drugs (overdosing) or to cut themselves, while boys are traditionally more successful in their suicide attempts because they utilize more lethal methods such as guns and hanging. This method preference makes boys almost four times more successful in committing suicide.


Studies have borne out that suicide rates rise considerably when teens can access firearms in their home. In fact, nearly 60% of suicides committed in the United States that result in immediate death are accomplished with a gun. This is one crucial reason that any gun kept in a home with teens, even if that teen does not display any outward signs of depression, be stored in a locked compartment away from any ammunition. In fact, the ammunition should be stored in a locked compartment as well, and the keys to both the gun and ammunition compartments should be kept in a different area from where normal, everyday keys are kept. Remember to always keep firearms, ammunition, and the keys to the locks containing them, away from kids.
Unfortunately, teen suicide is not a rare event.


In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. This disturbing trend is affecting younger children as well, with suicide rates experiencing dramatic increases in the under-15 age group from 1980 to 1996. Suicide attempts are even more prevalent, though it is difficult to track the exact rates.


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