Teen Suicide is on the Rise — Why?
Teen suicide is rising every year. U.S. data shows that suicide rates amongst those ages 15-24 has tripled in the past half-century, according to the article, “Explaining the Rise in Youth Suicide,” by David M. Cutler, Edward Glaeser and Karen Norberg, of the National Bureau of Economic Research. The article states that suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens, after accidents and homicide. Some researchers even put suicide as the second leading cause.
Facts About Teen Suicide
For every youth suicide completion, there are nearly 400 suicide attempts, the article states. Other conclusions that these researchers reached, state that:
- Girls attempt suicide more than boys, but boys complete it more than girls.
- Suicide clearly decreases with age after adolescence
- Blacks attempt and complete fewer suicides than whites
- Rural states have higher suicide rates
- In the U.S., completed suicides are overwhelmingly accomplished by using guns
Theories of Motives
Chronic depression that is not accurately treated, or treated at all, can play a major role in teen suicide. Teens may get so depressed that they feel like their life is hopeless. The accumulation of those negative feelings then begins to snowball, leading to the diminishment of self-esteem and self-worth, and making a teen feel especially vulnerable. They then make the decision that death is the only way to escape the severe feelings of unhappiness in their lives, which never seem to go away. They see no other way to escape their pain.
Another strongly believed motive is that of contagion, or imitating the behavior of others with whom they identify, often a friend or family member. It has been reported in the media more than once, that a group of teenagers has attempted, or completed, suicide, as part of a pact they made together. Peer pressure can often be strong enough to adhere to the pact, despite second thoughts.
Warning Signs for Suicide
It is important for parents, or anyone involved with teens on a regular basis, to be on the lookout, for the warning signs of a teen contemplating suicide. Following are some classic symptoms:
- Isolating themselves socially
- Talking about feeling trapped
- Being anxious or agitated
- Expressing a feeling unbearable pain
- Saying they feeling like a burden to others
- Behaving recklessly
- Talking about wanting to die
If you encounter a teen who is expressing these feelings, it’s very important not to leave the teen alone, especially for long periods of time.
Remove Objects of Self-Destruction
You can help to reduce the risk of a teen suicide by doing the following:
- Making sure they are not using drugs or alcohol, which can intensify feelings of hopelessness
- Keep all prescription medications in a locked cabinet, so that they are unavailable for teens to acquire
- If you keep alcohol in your home, again, keep it locked up and unattainable
- If you must have guns of any sort, do not keep them in the home. Keep them in a gun safe, with the safe itself preferably hidden from your teen. If you do have guns, make sure that you never store ammunition in the same place where you keep your guns, even if they are hidden.
Finally, if you feel that you are not getting through to your teen, and that they are persisting in their behavior with the possibility that they may act quickly, immediately call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for help.