Suicides among young people nationwide have increased greatly in recent years. Each year in the U.S., thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 – to – 24 years olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5 – to – 14 year olds. Teenagers experience strong 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 can encourage self-doubts. In some cases, suicide appears to be a “solution.” Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. The child or adolescent needs to have his or her illness recognized and diagnosed, and appropriate treatment plans developed.
When parents are in doubt whether their child has a serious problem, a psychiatric examination can be very helpful. Many of the symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of depression. Parents should be aware of the following signs of adolescents who may try to kill themselves. Child and adolescent psychiatrists recommend that if one or more of these signs occurs, parents need to talk to their child about their concerns and seek professional help when the concerns persist.
TEEN SUICIDE leaves behind an unceasing wake of questions. Parents, friends, and classmates all ask in endless echo-WHY? Everyone tries to make sense of it. But no sense can be made. All questions. No answers. Just the cold, haunting specter of senseless death. Psychological studies have discovered a number of links to teen suicide. It comes as no surprise that depression and hopelessness typically top the list. Alcoholism and drug abuse are prevalent among kids who attempt suicide. A history of sexual abuse can also contribute to a teen’s choice to die.
However, one prominent link to teen suicide is often overlooked by the mainstream media. Many medical studies have pinpointed family disintegration as a prime factor in teen suicide. The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology published a study in 1987 that found, “The strongest predictors of suicidal behavior in this sample were children’s perceptions of their family environments.” The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry also noted this connection in a study published in 1993.
The journal reported, “Results showed that suicidal behavior tended to be associated with greater family conflict and with less family organization. ” In fact, one study conducted by sociologist Robert Stack of Pennsylvania State University documented the connection specifically between divorce and teen suicide. He found not only that the rate of teen suicide grew with the divorce rate, but also decreased proportionately when the divorce rate decreased.
This is not to suggest that every family that endures a divorce produces a suicidal teen. However, it does indicate a connection between suicidal tendencies and the struggles faced by children of divorce. Mike’s Suicide Mike was a senior and the star basketball player at his midwestern high school. He seemed to have everything going for him. One night Mike stayed over at his best friend Tracy’s house. Late at night, the boys began confiding in each other about how frustrated they were with life. Eventually the idea of suicide came up. Nothing was ever really decided. No ‘suicide pact’ was made. But both boys had pretty much made up their minds that if things didn’t start to change soon, death was an option.
They concluded that the biggest obstacle holding them back was the fear of dying. Two weeks later, Mike saw Tracy in the hall at school. Out of the blue, Mike blurted out, “I lost the fear.” Tracy wasn’t sure he really meant it. Later, Mike said to Tracy, “I’ll see you in hell, my friend.” Could he be joking? Mike did joke around a lot. But before the day was out, Mike put a gun to his head-and pulled the trigger. Mike’s suicide shook the school to its very foundations. Rumors of a suicide pact surfaced. In an effort to avert more deaths, the principal called in a counselor, Mitchel Anthony. Mitchel met with Mike’s closest friends. Interestingly, six out of eight of Mike’s friends told Mitchel they no longer feared death.