The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that every 12 and a half minutes an American is taking their life. Around 40,000 people die by suicide each year and it is the tenth leading cause of death and the second leading cause of death in 10 to 24-year-olds.
About one million suicide attempts are made and many get misreported so in fact, the numbers are worse than that. Youth suicide prevention efforts have never been so important. September remains Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to help promote resources and raise awareness because it is still a fact that people are reluctant to talk about this and about mental illnesses like depression.
Until there is better federal funding and resources for the problem there are places like a suicide prevention charity that can offer some resources, information and help. The staggering facts are;
- Around 16% of students in high school have thought about suicide seriously. 13% of those teens have come up with an actual plan to carry it out and then 8% have tried within the next 12 months.
- Gender plays a role with boys being more likely to actually commit suicide but girls being more likely to try or think about it.
- When you look at all the teens that have committed suicide, a high percentage of them have a mental illness or psychological disorder such as depression.
- About 5000 teens die by suicide every year.
- Out of every 25 suicide attempts, one of them is successful.
Signs to look for in teens
Parents and schools are basically on the front line when it comes to watching for adolescents showing signs of distress. As well as programs and training in youth suicide prevention watch for some of the following;
- Agitation over small problems
- Expressing feelings of overwhelming sadness or hopelessness
- Being more irritable
- Acting more hostile and angry
- Making comments or drawing or writing that they would not be around for long
- Not focussing at school or doing their school or homework
- Over talking about death in general as well as perhaps suicide
- Being withdrawn from family or friends
- Tearing up and crying frequently
- Feeling worthless, having guilt over things that were not that much of a problem or not something they did at all
- Being lack lustre, not having any enthusiasm or happiness in everyday life
- Being fatigued and sleeping a lot, or even not being able to sleep
- Not having any energy
- Not eating or having a drastic change in eating habits
Teenage Suicide Prevention
When we are in our teen years people are at their most impressionable and emotional upheaval is more likely. In today’s society teens far more pressure than ever before from society, schools, peers, parents and more.
What might seem small to parents, can actually feel large and like something they cannot handle to the teen. It can be a trigger point. Then you add in things like anxiety or depression and things can get even worse.
When you look at the deaths of teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, the third leading cause is suicide. Many turn to solutions such as unsafe sex, alcohol, drug abuse and self-harming as a way to fix themselves or manage their pain, but these things just then make things worse, and the short temporary escape they give is not enough. That is why communities and especially parents need access to decent suicide prevention resources.
Suicide can be prevented, depression can be treated
It is important that teens and parents know that the above statement is true. With the right education and recognition of warning signs, they can prevent suicide. With the right resources and professional help, depression can be treated.
Ignoring signs of either or both will not mean they will go away or cure themselves though. Parents can help by getting suicide prevention training, schools can help doing the same and making sure counsellors are available, and referrals need to be made to professionals if needed.
Parents are in the best position to see the early signs
As well as knowing the symptoms or signs to look for you need to educate yourself on how to handle it. There is a certain way to talk with your teen so that you and they communicate clearly without making things worse.
Things like being very withdrawn, not wanting to do sports or hobbies, not wanting to see friends they once had, not doing well in school, being bullied, and not looking after themselves, are some of the things to look for.
If you are worried you should remove or hide weapons in the home, make efforts to talk to them, and consult with experts who can help. Use suicide prevention resources, tell them you are there no matter what. If you are worried about bringing up the subject directly use a new story or a film or book they know to reference. Or even make up something from your teens to open up a dialogue with them.
Do not dismiss them
It is important not to trivialize their pain or their problem. Listen more than talk as much as you can. You cannot see things from their perspective they are going through physical and hormonal changes that changes how they see and feel things.
Yes, some of the problems they are seeing might not be there, or not as large as they see it, but you cannot say that, for them, it is that big so that is what matters. It might be that they can talk things through more easily with a peer. It would help to give several people suicide prevention training so that more than one person in their world has the tools to help them.
Programs are needed in schools
One of the big places we can make a difference to the awful facts about suicide as well as with parents is in school. Educators need to learn the signs of problems with low self-esteem, depression, and self-injury which are all indicators that suicide is a risk. Both parents and schools should check out a suicide prevention charity to get some free resources and to learn more.