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Teen Suicides: Depression, Signs, Prevention

Updated on July 7, 2012


Teen suicide-the third leading cause of death in 15 to 24 year olds trailing closely behind accidents and homicide. Even more disturbing is that it is the fourth leading cause of death in children ages 10-14. Girls reportedly tend to think of suicide more often than boys, and tend to attempt suicide with methods such as drug overdose or cutting, while boys tend to succeed in committing suicide more often, probably due to using more lethal methods including firearms. About 75% of the teens who attempt suicide are suffering from depression.

What can we do for their sake?
What can we do for their sake?

Factors That Contribute to Teen Suicide

Teens today face many challenges, and those who attempt or succeed with suicide find these challenges too difficult to face. For example, statistics indicate that only about 60-65% of children are living in homes with both biological parents. Many children are living in homes with either a single parent, a blended family situation, or at times, strangers in and out of the home. There is the possibility of domestic violence in the home, physical or other forms of abuse, or parental indifference. School is another factor that affects teens. Many kids feel they just can't measure up to parental or teacher expectations. They feel their worth is measured by their success, and if they believe they are failing, giving up is a perceived way out. Peers within school can also play a big role in self-esteem and hopelessness. If a teen feels they don't fit in with a peer group or they are teased and tormented, they take the words to heart and believe themselves to be worthless. Substance abuse is another major factor in teen suicide. Drugs and alcohol can cause chemical changes in the brain that can lead to depression, they are often used by teens to self-medicate when they are already dealing with such issues as depression, ADHD, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, and substances can lower inhibitions, causing teens to engage in behaviors that they would normally not consider. These are just a few of the MANY reasons teens turn to suicide as a reason for escape.

What Can We Do

So what can we as parents, teachers, coaches, youth leaders, scout leaders, and others working with teens do to keep our kids safe? As a therapist and a mom of teens, here are my thoughts.

1. Learn the warning signs of depression and possible suicidal thoughts. These include such things as:

Changes in behavior
Drop in grades
Lack of intereste in usual activities
Change in peers or lack of involvement with peers
Substance use
Talking about suicide

2. Be aware of your teen and watch for any of the above signs. Please don't assume that, "My child would never..." Hopefully this is the case, but teens see today and have trouble seeing tomorrow. A crisis can occur at any time and we need to be aware of our teen's feelings and behaviors.

3. As difficult as it may be sometimes, create an open line of communication with your teen. Make sure they know that you are available as a resource, a listening ear. Try not to downplay their feelings. Listen, support, advise, given help where needed.

4. If your teen is in serious trouble (i.e. substance abuse, depression, eating disorder, legal issues) seek help immediately. A local emergency room can do an evaluation, or an individual counselor can be a good resource. You can also access a local crisis line for assistance usually by looking in the front cover of your phone book.

Our teens face so many challenges in today's world, with the economy crisis, family problems, media telling them what they should be, easy acceess to drugs and alcohol, and so many, many other things. They need adults in their lives to advocate for them, to show them they have worth. Let's build them up so they won't fall.


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    • TripleAMom profile image

      TripleAMom 5 years ago from Florida

      John, thank you so much for you wonderful comments. Yes, children need to know they are loved. It is tough to be a parent, but it is so important.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi TripleAMom, and what a wonderful and powerful hub this is. We need more people like you in this world. I agree parents need to pay more attention to their children's behaviour. There are just so many evil people in this world who'll waste no time in making teens feel inadequate---inadequate to the point of suicide! People need to pay more attention to what their children are doing and how they're feeling. It's a tough job being a parent. Thank God I'm only an uncle.

      Take care and voted up on your wonderful hub


    • TripleAMom profile image

      TripleAMom 5 years ago from Florida

      Pamela, thank you so much for reading and commenting. This is near and dear to me as a counselor working with kids, teens and college students (I work with all ages). I can't imagine kids not feeling that they are loved and cared for. Thanks for sharing, I really want others to know the signs so that they can be aware of a teen who neeeds help. It is so easy to overlook and just brush aside as a moody teen.

      Suzettenaples--thank you also for reading and commenting. My husband had a college friend who committed suicide and he is greatly missed. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Anything can be worked through. Teens just need to know where to find help and that takes caring adults.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      This is a very important and informative article you have written. My heart breaks when I hear about the teenage/college age suicides. If they only knew suicide is a permanant solution to a temporary problem. All I can say is we all need to keep communication open and our relationships caring and compassionate so that these young people will want to confide in us when things are bad. I just can't conceive of a young person being in so much despair that they want to leave this world permanently. I am concerned about the amount of bullying that goes on in our schools. When I taught I had zero tolerance for bullying in my classroom. I can't imagine a teacher not having this in the classroom. I am saddened by the amount of bullying that goes on over the internet. Parents need to monitor their children's time and place on the internet. It takes constant vigilence and I know so many homes just don't do it. It just is chilling to me. Thank you so much for writing such a relevant and timely article!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      You've written another great hub. I'm surprised there are so few comments. I guess nobody thinks it could happen in their family -- or worse: it has and people are in pain.

      Our youth need to know first and foremost that they are loved no matter what. Unfortunately, as you have pointed out, many youth do not have the blessing of two -- or even one -- caring parent. But if there's even just one loving parent, there is hope for gradual change. There is hope the young person will begin to believe they are of worth and life is surmountable.

      I'm sharing this one.

    • TripleAMom profile image

      TripleAMom 6 years ago from Florida

      I agree it's not a fun topic, but there are so many myths about teen suicide. I wanted to get some info out there. Thanks for the comment. Will definately post other types of topics as well :)

    • profile image

      StonePost 6 years ago

      Not a subject that people like to talk about really- but it is more important than most realize! Thank you for this information, maybe it will save a life!