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The Reality of Teen Suicide

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I have been saddened by the two suicides and one attempted in our community during the last two months. As a parent and pediatrician, it is hard for me to fathom the loss of a child due to self-harm.  There are really no words for the shock and grief.

Each year, thousands of teens commit suicide nationwide (it’s the third-leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds).

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control reported that one out of 12 teens attempts suicide and that up to one in five teens stated that they had contemplated it at some point during their adolescent years.

Statistics also show that the incidence of teen suicide has been increasing, which seems to correlate with the mounting pressures — both real and perceived — that our youths feel.

As an adult, I think, “What could be that terrible to drive a teen to end their life when so much lies ahead of them?” But a teen’s brain is not fully developed, and as any parent knows, teenagers are often impulsive with little thought of the consequences of their actions.

Teen suicides are usually related to depression, anxiety, confusion and the feeling that life is not worth living. A break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, substance abuse or failure at school may lead to suicide attempts.

There are also gender differences among teens who commit suicide. Teen girls are more likely to attempt suicide than teen boys. But teen boys are more likely to complete a suicide.

Girls are more likely to use an overdose of drugs to attempt suicide, and boys are more likely to shoot themselves. While a girl may use an overdose or cutting as a call for help, there is often little opportunity for intervention with a boy who sustains a self-inflicted gunshot or who hangs himself. Male suicide attempts are typically more violent and are four times more likely to be successful.

Be aware of the warning signs and take them seriously:

-Sudden isolation or change in friends

-Change in school attendance or grades

-Problems with substance abuse

-Signs of being bullied

-Too much time on social media sites

-Excessive texting

-Statements about ending his or her life

Professional help is absolutely necessary when dealing with these issues; parents should not attempt to solve the problems on their own. There are numerous resources available, and the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE is a 24-hour service.

Lastly, firearms should not be kept in a home unless they are locked, and the key should always be in the care of a parent. More than half of teen suicides are inflicted by guns.

It might also be prudent not to have ammunition in the house if you do have a gun. If an impulsive, depressed teen has to buy ammunition before attempting suicide, he might be more likely to have an epiphany and realize that things are not hopeless.

Any deterrent may be all that is necessary to prevent a suicide.

Do me a favor, go hug your child as soon as you can and tell them how much they are loved!

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2 Responses to “The Reality of Teen Suicide”

  1. Thank you so much for helping to keep this important issue front and center in our collective awareness.

    While bullying is a “natural” part of childhood, and the human experience – this does NOT mean that it is a NECESSARY part of childhood or the human experience.

    I don’t know about everyone else here – but I don’t think things are getting better with our status quo.

  2. mary says:

    I lost my eleven year old cousin to self suicide. ELEVEN YEARS OLD! I still don’t understand what was going through that child’s mind when he did that to himself. It was the most horrific tragedy my family ever had to deal with. Very good article , thank you for sharing. And yes, always tell your children how much you love them & how much they mean to you.

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