Teen Suicide Prevention & Treatment
The latest statistics on teenage suicide are sobering. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds and the fourth cause of death for 10-14 year olds. The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide cites that there are 25 suicide attempts for every completed suicide. The knowledge that so many suicides are attempted is staggering.
Who is at Risk?
The teenager of today faces the problems and situations that teens have traditionally dealt with: establishing identity, dating, coping with physical changes, and scholastic achievement—to name a few. Yet, today's teens have even more life choices to make than teens from previous generations and are more impacted by growing up in a world where technology is advancing.
Gender also plays a significant role in suicide rates and methods. Girls tend to spend time planning how and when they will commit suicide—usually overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves—and they often attempt suicide several times. Boys tend to succeed in committing suicide on the first try because they use more lethal methods: firearms, hanging, and jumping from heights.
Parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and others in the lives of teens need to be able to identify those at risk, offer possible solutions, and know how to seek help. The CDC provides the following guidelines to help identify teens that may be vulnerable: teens with existing mental problems, anxiety, depression, bi- polar disorder, and insomnia, are perceived to be at higher risk. The same goes for teens struggling with life-changing situations or major events: death of a parent, financial changes, divorce of parents, moving, or a parent being far away because of military service or separation. In addition, high-risk teens may also be those who have difficulty connecting with their peers.
The following factors can increase risk of suicide:
• Psychological disorders—especially depression, bi-polar disorder, (95% of teens who die by suicide have psychological disorders at the time of their death)
• Heavy alcohol and drug abuse
• Feeling of hopeless and worthless (especially if accompanied by depression)
• Previous suicide attempts
• Family history of depression and/or suicide
• Emotional, physical, sexual abuse
• Dealing with bi-sexuality or homosexuality in a non-supportive or hostile family, school, or community environment
• Lack of a support network—feeling disconnected from the community/society, isolation, poor relationship with parents, inability to communicate
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide lists the following warning signs:
• Focus on death and dying
• Hints they will not be around for very long
• Talking about feeling guilty, loss of hope
• Pulling away from family and friends
• Stopping activities they enjoy
• Giving away treasured possessions to family and friends
• Drastic change in sleeping and eating habits
• Sudden high risk behavior
• Writing poems, songs, plays, about death
• Extreme change in appearance
Many kids are bullied daily or weekly in school. This unrelenting type of bullying can cause some of these teens to seek suicide as a solution. The CDC offers some tips to "bully proofing" your teen:
• Talk about it with your teen before it happens—if bullying occurs, decide with your teen who is the best person to approach (the bully or school authorities)
• Remove the cause—If this is happening because of lunch money or carrying a certain electronic device, remove the cause for awhile
• Buddy up—encourage the teen who is being bullied to be with two or three friends as much as possible while at school, bullying is more likely to happen if alone
• If attempts to resolve bullying do not work, then seek an adult in the school or community to mediate
Modern technology has created cyber-bullying, stalking, and harassment. These new forms of bullying have contributed to the rise in teen suicides. A poll from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization, found that 1 in 6 teens have been a victim of cyber-bullying at local schools. The effects of this can be devastating because they have far reaching impact in that bullying can electronically continue around the clock. Many kids are reluctant to tell their parents or teachers about this because of the social stigma associated with it. Many also fear they may lose computer privileges at home.
Fight Crime has put of the following signs to look for to assist in identifying cyber-bullying:
• Upset after using internet or cell phone
• Withdraw from friends and activities
• Mood and behavioral changes
• Avoidance of school and school activities
• Slipping grades, loss of motivation
• Protective of their digital identities and cell phone
Warning signs should be taken seriously and not seen as "just doing it for attention."
Most teenagers who have attempted suicide will usually exhibit one of more of these warning signs. One of the best approaches to preventing teen suicide is to watch and listen. Keep a close eye on a teen showing signs of depression. A depressed teen can show depression through fights with others or withdrawing from society. Not all high-risk teens exhibit depression or feelings of unworthiness through crying and sadness. Suicide also usually occurs after a stressful life event: a breakup, problem at school, death of a loved one, or major family conflict.
What Else Can Be Done
Communication and support is critical in preventing teen suicide. Talk to your teen, and listen to what he or she says. Do not downplay his or her concerns. Seek help from others if your teen does not feel comfortable working with school counselors or healthcare professionals. Do not be reluctant to bring up the subject of suicide with your teen. Talk to them about it, even if it is difficult, because it will show them that you care and are aware.
According to the CDC, 60% of teen suicides are committed by a handgun. Parents should consider not keeping a gun in the house if they have a troubled teen or, at the very least, keeping the gun in an undisclosed location at home, under lock and key. Overdose from over-the-counter-medications, prescriptions, and illegal drugs are some of the leading ways teens attempt suicide. At home, monitor all over-the-counter and prescription medications, as teens may attempt to trade them for more powerful drugs.
The key to preventing teen suicide is knowing when and how to get help. If a teen is talking specifically about suicide, seek the immediate help of a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist at a local hospital. In Needham, Massachusetts, Ketamine of Greater Boston (KGB) is offering ketamine infusion therapy for individuals suffering from severe depression. KGB’s experienced psychiatrist and nurse anesthetists safely administer ketamine infusions. This method of treatment has proven to be highly effective for treating severe depression and other mental health disorders. To learn more please visit http://ketaminegreaterboston.com. For urgent care, call 1-800-suicide or 1-800-999-9999. In an emergency situation, stronger measures may need to be taken to protect the teen, including calling local authorities.
The subject of teen suicide should not be avoided. Teens should seek help if a friend or classmate is showing warning signs of severe depression or suicide. The entire community should get involved by sending out the message that there is no stigma in being depressed, sad, lonely, broken, and that support is there for all who need it. Vigilance, love, and understanding will go a long way in reaching those who feel hopeless.