Teen Suicides: Depression, Signs, Prevention
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.
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
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.