by: Brandee Mackenzie
You may not think that teen suicide is a big issue but thousands of teens say their final goodbye every year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds. (1) It’s not even all teenagers either, even in 9 to 12 year olds suicide is one of the leading causes of death.
Statistics show that suicide rates in teenagers are on the rise.
After a trend of decreasing suicide rates from 1996 to 2003, teen suicide rates increased 18% in 2004 and 17% in 2005.
Experts aren’t sure yet, but theories include:
- increase access to guns
- increase use of alcohol
- the influence of Internet social networks, such as MySpace
- increased rates of suicide among older teens who are serving in, or returning from Iraq
Another leading theory is that the rise in teen suicides may be because fewer teens are being treated with antidepressants when they have depression. This follows the 2003 FDA warning about antidepressants and suicide. However, since untreated depression is itself a risk factor for suicide, fewer teens taking antidepressants could have the unintended effect of leading to more suicides.
Worldwide, about 90,000 teens commit suicide each year, with about four million suicide attempts. That means that one teenager dies from suicide about every five minutes.
Suicide Risk Factors
In addition to untreated depression, other suicide risk factors include:
- mood disorders
- chronic anxiety
- previous suicide attempts
- genetics — family history of suicide or psychiatric conditions
- conduct disorder
- child abuse
- sexual assault
- stressful events, including relationship breakups, family problems, etc.
- drug and alcohol abuse
- eating disorders
- being bullied
- dropping out of school
- taking certain medications, including antidepressants, Strattera (atomoxetine), a medication for ADHD, and Accutane (isotretinoin), which is used to treat teens with severe nodulocystic acne, and antiseizure drugs, such as Tegretol (carbamazepine), Depakoke (valproate), and Lamictal (lamotrigine)
Suicide is also more common in bisexual and homosexual teens.
In addition to all of the teens who successfully commit suicide, there are many more who attempt suicide. Experts estimate that 20 to 25% of teens admit to thinking about suicide at some time in their lives and for every suicide, there are between 5 to 45 suicide attempts. (2)
In 2007, there were 34,598 reported suicide deaths in the U.S., according to the latest available data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationally, the suicide rate increased 3 percent from 11.2 suicides per 100,000 population in 2006 to 11.5 in 2007. The rate has fluctuated since 2000, ranging from a low of 10.4 in 2000 to a high of 11.5 in 2007, with a mean rate of 11.0 (see chart below). The 2007 suicide rate is the highest since 1995. (3)
Teenage suicide facts
- In over 90% depressed teens, clear signs of warning lead the suicidal attempts.
- A majority of suicides takes place due to depression, not because of a fatal illness.
- It is not necessary to be mentally ill for a teen to commit suicide.
- With more number of attempts, the risk of a successful suicide increases.
- A majority of the teenage suicides is preventable by psychotherapy as well as proper communication.
Teenage Suicide Causes
- Death of a close one
- Discord/Violence in the family
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Break-up or unhealthy relationship
- Guilt feeling
- Low academic scores
- Physical or mental illness, especially a fatal one
- Past records of suicide in and around the surroundings wherein the teen resides
- Failure to tackle the hardships because of low energy as well as depression
The red signals
These are the signals for the parents, which are warning signs that differ from the normal behavior. If any feelings regarding hopelessness, helplessness, and depression is noticed; it means something is gravely wrong somewhere. Listed below are the signs that can be seen in together or in different blends and that they can be effectively alleviated if seen before a suicide attack.
- No interest in recreation, fun, or other activities that were loved once
- Expression of sadness, emptiness, and fatigue
- Negligence regarding the looks
- Jokes, questions, or sentences related to suicide and death
- No reaction to praise
- Isolation, most of the time
- Social withdrawal
- Violent expressions of anger and hatred
- Insomnia or any other sleep disorder
- Lack of concentration on studies
- Hallucination or strange thinking patterns
- Unexplained body pains
- Drastic change in weight
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Flinging vital belongings
- Verbal statements such as ‘Now, there will be no pain in my life at all.”
- Normal looks in the post depressive period. (4)
- • In 2007, 119 children ages 10 to 14 completed suicide in the U.S.
- • Suicide rates for those between the ages of 10-14 increased over 50% between 1981 and 2007.
- • Although their rates are lower than for Caucasian children, African American children (ages 10-14) showed the largest increase in suicide rates between 1980 and 1995. In 2007, the rate for African American males ages 10-14 was 1.12 per 100,000 (the rate for Caucasian males was .63 per 100,000).
- • In the 10 to 14 age group, Caucasian children (ranked 3rd leading cause of death) were far more likely to complete suicide than African American children (ranked 5th leading cause of death). Caucasian males between 10 and 14 years of age were 2.21 times more likely to complete suicide than Caucasian females of the same age.
- • The trend of methods used by children has followed a similar pattern to that of youths 15 to 19 years old. Since 1993, suicide by firearm decreased and suicide by suffocation increased. Suicides by suffocation among 10-to-14-year-olds have occurred more frequently than those by firearms since 1999.
Other Factors To Consider
- • Research has shown that most adolescent suicides occur after school hours and in the teen’s home.
- • Although rates vary somewhat by geographic location, within a typical high school classroom, it is likely that three students (one boy and two girls) have made a suicide attempt in the past year.
- • The typical profile of an adolescent nonfatal suicide attempter is a female who ingests pills, while the profile of the typical suicide completer is a male who dies from a gunshot wound.
- • Not all adolescent attempters may admit their intent. Therefore, any deliberate self-harming behaviors should be considered serious and in need of further evaluation.
- • Most adolescent suicide attempts are precipitated by interpersonal conflicts. The intent of the behavior appears to be to effect change in the behaviors or attitudes of others.
- • Repeat attempters (those making more than one nonfatal attempt) generally use their behavior as a means of coping with stress and tend to exhibit more chronic symptomology, poorer coping histories, and a higher presence of suicidal and substance abuse behaviors in their family histories.
- • Many teenagers may display one or more of the problems or “signs” detailed below.
The following list describes some potential factors of risk for suicide among youth. If observed, a professional evaluation is strongly recommended:
Presence of a psychiatric disorder (e.g., depression, drug or alcohol, behavior disorders, conduct disorder [e.g., runs away or has been incarcerated]);
The expression/communication of thoughts of suicide, death, dying or the afterlife (in a context of sadness, boredom, hopelessness or negative feelings);
Impulsive and aggressive behavior, frequent expressions of rage;
Increasing use of alcohol or drugs;
Exposure to another’s suicidal behavior;
Having a recent severe stressor in their life (e.g., difficulties in dealing with sexual orientation; unplanned pregnancy, significant real or anticipated loss, etc.); and/or family instability, significant family conflict.