The teenage years are often a time of turmoil, which includes frequent mood swings and sadness. Teenagers experience feelings of stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty and other fears while growing up.
For some teenagers, divorce, the formation of a new family with step-parents and step-siblings, or moving to a new community can be very unsettling and intensify self-doubts. Some teens may see suicide as a solution to their problems and stress.
Depression is common and can be serious when prolonged. Individuals with depression have a higher risk of suicide, but with intervention and treatment, most get better.
Facts About Teen Suicide
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers
- Depression and the risk for suicide may have biological (altered levels of some brain chemicals) as well as psychological links. A family history of suicide is a significant risk factor.
- Among college students suicide is the second leading cause of death
- Males succeed in committing suicide four times more frequently than females, but women attempt suicide four to eight times more frequently
- Most people who commit suicide have given some warning of their intent
- Suicide rates for youth have tripled in the last 20 years
- Alcohol or drug abuse play a major role in suicide
Signs and Symptoms of a Suicidal Teen
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
- Drug and alcohol use
- Guilt or hopeless feelings
- Unusual neglect of personal appearance
- Marked personality change
- Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork
- Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feelings of loneliness and rejection
- Giving away favorite possessions
- Sudden mood or behavioral changes
A teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also
- Complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside
- Give verbal hints with statements such as: I won’t be a problem for you much longer, nothing matters, it’s no use, and I won’t see you again
- Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
- Have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts
Helping a Suicidal Teen
Most depressed or suicidal people feel worthless and have little hope. They deny their emotions or won’t talk about them because they don’t want to “burden” others. If you think someone is depressed or suicidal, take it seriously and take time to talk about it.
- Reassure them and encourage them to get help
- Don’t lecture them
If a child or adolescent says, “I want to kill myself.” or “I’m going to commit suicide.” always take the statement seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. However, asking the youth whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than putting thoughts in the child’s head, such a question will provide assurance that somebody can and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems.