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Teens and Suicide
(Kids & Teens)
By: Amy Otis


Suicide is Forever

Every 100 minutes another teenager will commit suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 14 to 25 in the United States. The following statistics were taken from a recent survey of college and high school students by the CDC:

* Twenty-seven percent of high school students said they had "thought seriously" about killing themselves during the past year. Eight percent said they had actually tried to kill themselves.

* Ten percent of U.S. college students admitted serious thoughts about suicide. Seven percent had a suicide plan.

More than 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year, and 5,000 of these people are teenagers. Even in societies where suicide is illegal or taboo, people still kill themselves.

Most suicides occur at home between the hours of 3 PM to midnight. There are 30 to 50 times as many attempted suicides as completed suicides.

Four times as many males complete suicide than females, but female teens attempt suicide twice as frequently as male teenagers. We also know that teens from high-income families kill themselves as often as those from poor or middle-class teens.

For every teenage suicide, there are more than 100 unsuccessful attempts. ”Copycat” suicides spread the tragedy even further. The behavioral patterns found in the backgrounds of most suicide victims are normal emotions that many teens experience, so it’s often difficult to predict who may be at risk.

People who talk about suicide often commit suicide. All talk about suicide should be taken seriously.

People often have opposing feelings about whether or not they want to die, so there is always hope that they can change their minds if they receive professional help. Often those who attempt suicide are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Be aware of this signal. Many attempts are impulsive acts, although it was an option that had been explored.

If you suspect a friend is contemplating suicide, take the initiative and just ask the person, "Are you thinking about killing or harming yourself?" and "How are you going to kill yourself?" This will often get them to talk about it. Be straight with them, get right to the subject. Tell an adult, a teacher, a guidance counselor, or their parents about your concern for your friend's safety. The person may get angry with you initially, but it could save their life.

There is a suicide hotline phone number in almost every phone book and there are international ones on the Internet. For help in the United States, call the Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 1-800-999-9999. The Suicide National Hotline in the U.S. is: 1-800-273-8255.

Some people who are suicidal are very good at hiding their emotional pain, that is why it’s okay to just come out and ask if you think someone is hurting on the inside. Very often those people are appearing cheerful and popular on the outside to mask their pain and suicidal thoughts on the inside.

Remember, just because a suicidal person may get professional help and overcome his suicidal feelings, this in itself does not mean those feelings will not return, especially when the person is confronted once again by the stress and the problems that caused him or her to consider suicide in the first place. Teens often feel and think they are immortal.

The numbers are often disturbing to adults, and yet, they only partially convey the tragedy of teen and young adult suicide. Each and every victim leaves behind a void in the hearts of their friends, their schools, and an ongoing ache in the hearts of their families and loved ones. I know, I am one of them.

Some Warning Signs of Suicide:

Anger or hostility
Isolation or withdrawal
Loss of appetite
Preoccupation with death
Giving things away that were once valued
Ending significant relationships or commitments (breaking up)
Sudden uplift in mood after depression
Severe outbursts of temper
Excessive substance use
Absence from school or work
Inability to carry out normal tasks of daily life
Inability to laugh

Some Types of Suicidal Behaviors

About 60% of teen suicide deaths occur using a hand gun. Teen girls attempt suicide far more often than guys (about nine times), but guys are about four times more likely to succeed. Why is this different? Male teens tend to use more deadly methods, like guns or hanging themselves. Girls most often attempt suicide by overdosing with medication or by some form of self-injury. Suicide deaths can occur from medications and other harmful substances, especially if these substances are mixed.

Sometimes a depressed person plans an act of suicide in advance. (Often the planning of an act gives the person some feeling of control). Most often however, suicide attempts are “impulsive acts”. These acts occur during a time of feeling overwhelmingly upset. A situation like a breakup, an unintended pregnancy, the death of a sibling, a fight with a parent or boyfriend or girlfriend, being harmed by abuse or rape, or being victimized in any way can cause a young person to feel desperately upset.

“Coming out” for homosexual teens can also lead to suicidal attempts if that person is no longer accepted by their family or friends.

In situations such as these, teens may fear humiliation, rejection, social isolation, or another consequence they think they can’t handle. Suicide attempts occur under conditions like this because in desperation and confusion, some teens see no other way out.

Risk Factors For Teenage Suicide:

Previous Attempts -- Teens who attempt suicide remain vulnerable for several years, especially for the first three months following an attempt. These people may become very clever about hiding their true feelings. Keep in contact with them.

Personal Failure -- High standards (the teen's or the parents') that are not met, even after only one setback, may set off a downward spiral ending in suicide.

Recent Loss -- Death of close friends or family, divorce, breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend may leave a teenager so lost and alone that suicide seems the only option.

Family Handguns -- A gun in the house may make it easy for a troubled teen to commit suicide; children of law-enforcement officers have a much higher rate of suicide because of the accessibility of guns. If you think your son or friend is in danger of harming himself, please have someone remove that gun from the home!

Substance Abuse -- Some teens abuse drugs or alcohol to self-medicate overwhelming depression; a combination of depression, substance abuse, and lowered impulse control can end in a suicide attempt. This is often a fatal combination.

Family Violence -- Violence in the home teaches youths that the way to resolve conflict is through violence.

Lack of Communication -- The inability to discuss angry or uncomfortable feelings within the family can lead to suicide. Anger turned inward often leads to depression.

Remember, if someone you know says, "I want to kill myself", or "I'm going to commit suicide", take the statements seriously and immediately seek the help of a trusted adult, such a teacher, nurse, parent or counselor. Call their therapist if you know the number.

Experts agree it’s okay to ask a depressed person if he or she is thinking about suicide. Asking this question provides assurance that somebody cares and might give the young person the opportunity to talk about their problems.

This article was posted on June 30, 2006

About The Author
Amy Otis

Amy Otis is a registered nurse, a writer and an educator. She has devoted her life as an RN to the welfare of teenagers. She's the founder of a popular teen health site called Cool Nurse - Health for Today's Teen and Young Adult. Stop by, you might just learn something!

                                 Other Articles By Amy Otis


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