Teen Suicide Essay, Research Paper
Suicide of any kind is an act in which a person takes his or her own life. FACT: Suicide is a prevalent cause of death among America’s youth today. Every day more than 1000 teenagers will think about suicide and eighteen will be successful in committing it. It is an ever-growing problem that can be described as unnecessary and uncalled for. Knowledge and understanding are key factors to preventing teenage suicide. The problem will usually originate from a period of depression, either as a medical concern, or simply because of a saddened event in a person’s life. The bottom line is, suicide among teens is not a rare event, and it may be preventable with the proper treatment.
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, barely surpassed by car accidents and homicide (http://www.kidshealth.org). The question is why would someone want to die? Research shows that most teens attempting to commit suicide regret it at the last minute and wish they could live after all. Faced with the certainty of their own death, most said they suddenly realized that their problems weren’t so big that they somehow couldn’t be solved. Their problems weren’t so bad that somehow they couldn’t find a way to survive them. In the second before they almost died, they knew they wanted to live (Nelson & Galas 12).
Many events and warning signs lead up to a suicide. Thoughts and attempts of suicide are commonly instigated by the medical condition, depression. The person often experiences strong feelings of stress, confusion, self-doubt, the pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty and other fears while growing up. According to the experts, more than eighty percent of the time they are extremely depressed, and their minds are therefore focused on the terrible emotional pain in which they find themselves (Colman 75). In their depression, they often dwell on what they feel is their unlucky and helpless lot in life, repeatedly leading them to believe that their situation is hopeless.
FACT: Few suicides happen without some kind of warning. Most teenagers who have attempted or committed suicide will leave several hints and warning signs along the way. They will say or do things to let others know they are in trouble and thinking about dying. A more common occurrence is the young person frequently talking about death or that no one would miss them if they were gone. Some even give away personal belongings. Few will keep their intent to die an absolute secret from everyone, and some even tell friends about their plans (Nelson & Galas 25).
Many people may begin to do more dangerous acts, like reckless driving or minor acts like not wearing a seatbelt in a car, when they are feeling suicidal (http://www.harthosp.org/HealthInfo/scripts/scr0341.htm). After all, an accident will only make dying easier. Deep down teens are scared to die. They may come to the point where they do not care if they die, but most fear it the minute they come close to touching it, especially if they are the ones doing it themselves. Besides the suicides mistakenly labeled as “accidents”, many suicides go unreported. It is painful for families to admit that their children have committed suicide (Nelson & Galas 24).
In some cases, depression can be a medical condition in which the patient should be carefully observed as much as possible. Symptoms of attempting suicide are similar to those of depression. Some of the more rampant symptoms include a change in eating and sleeping habits, a marked personality change and a lost of interest in pleasurable activities. They physically appear sad and weighted down, and can sleep a great deal, even talking in soft, tired voices (http://www.aap.org/advocacy/childhealthmonth/prevteensuicide.htm).
On the other hand while depression and suicide are similar in many respects, one will not necessarily result in another. It is possible for someone depressed to never think about suicide at all (Galas 42). Depression can set teenagers up for suicide attempts because they are often led to believe their troubles and sadness will never end. They fall into a cycle that follows a pattern of depression, isolation, sadness, and more depression. The longer the cycle lasts, the greater the risk that they will try to end their sadness and loneliness by ending their own life.
Life is notoriously known for handing teens a bountiful of pressures they must face almost every day. The teenage years can really be a period of turmoil for just about anyone. There are many pressures to succeed, and should they fail, the fear the thought of disappointing their parents. Learning to conquer feelings of disappointment and self-doubt is part of growing up. For some teens, however, these feelings become overwhelming and their thoughts turn to suicide.
Unfortunately, due to greater access to drugs, lethal weapons, such as firearms, and motor vehicles it is easier to be able to be successful in committing suicide. Part of the reason the youth suicide rate has gone so high in recent years is because it is easier to get the tools; boys often use firearms to kill themselves (which seem to be so commonly found in homes and of easy access these days) and girls generally use pills.
Suicide, or attempted suicide, serves different purposes for different people. One teen may plan that his final act in life will be one of defiance and revenge. There is the case study of one young man who was having suicidal thoughts and seeing a crisis counselor because of it (Smith 49). He would tell his crisis counselor, “They’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” His anger was furious inside, and he had wanted to hurt his parents, as he was hurting from their lack of acceptance of his behavior and respect for his growing sense of independence and freedom. What he neglected to remember was that if he were dead he would not be there to enjoy the revenge.
Suicide is preventable. Some people think that if teenagers are suicidal there is no way of stopping them in killing themselves. It is also a common belief that those who don’t succeed in killing themselves the first time will keep trying until they do. Suicide is often described as a desperate cry for help. In most cases it is actually a form of communication; a way of telling others that things are not okay inside and that the person feels helpless to do anything about it (Smith 49). Often friends and parents don’t respond to a teen that says, “I’m going to kill myself.” They think that person is just asking for attention and is trying to use them or trick them into doing something he or she wants. While it is true they may be seeking attention, he or she may be quite serious at the same time. To be a friend in this situation, you need to put aside your own feelings about what it means to get attention. Instead, one needs to start paying attention to what a suicidal person is saying and not what their motives might be for talking about it.
Teenagers who are suicidal will almost always give out several warning signs that they are. Warning signs include making suicide threats, showing sudden change in behavior, giving away treasured possessions, becoming aggressive, rebellious or disobedient, and taking risks or becoming self-destructive. They may also have recently experienced a significant loss.
While they are useful indicators, these signals are not foolproof. Teens typically go through phases of defiant behavior as a part of their increasing independence and separation from parents (http://www.uky.edu/Agriculture/Sociology/suicide.htm). They may also exhibit moodiness, withdrawal or anger in reaction to such events as not making an athletic team or breaking up with a significant other. The key to distinguishing between normal adolescent turbulence and the danger signals is the time, degree and amount of deviation from usual personality and behavior.
It is a fact that people who attempt suicide are in the most danger when they start to feel better. There is often a case of shock and surprise when a person commits suicide just when they seemed to have been getting better. The truth is most young people are suicidal only once in their lives (Nelson & Galas 30). They can get help before it is too late through a concerned and caring friend or parent. Showing a suicidal individual that there is in fact someone who cares about him or her minimizes his or her thought on killing.
Parents are a positive influence in helping prevent their teen from committing suicide. A lack of parental interest can serve to be a problem. Many children grow up in divorced households, while others experience both parents as full time workers, leaving little time for family time (Smith 47). By paying attention to their child’s warning signs they can avert them from doing something disastrous. They can make sure their child always has someone to confide in, whether it is a parent, grandparent, priest, coach, doctor, etc. Parents should not attempt to minimize what their child is going through, and express a great deal of love, concern and support. According to a study, ninety percent of suicidal teenagers believed their families did not understand them. They also reported that when young people tried to tell their parents about their feelings of unhappiness or failure, their mother and father denied or ignored their point of view (http://www.aap.org/advocacy/childhealthmonth/prevteensuicide.htm).
There is also always the option of seeking medical help. Proper treatments can be given if professional help is sought. There are a variety of outpatient and hospital-based treatment programs available. It can also help to find an outlet for a teenager’s feelings by letting them do something they love. Most importantly, individuals willing to help a suicidal teen should build up a support system for them.
Adults can help prevent suicide by fostering open, honest communication with teens. If a teen trusts you enough to come to you with a problem, take time to listen to them. Delay may only fuel feelings of doom in the teen (http://www.uky.edu/Agriculture/Sociology/suicide.htm).
It is a common misconception that if a teenager talks about suicide they will become suicidal. The truth is talking about the subject and using the term “suicide” may help someone think his or her cries for help are being heard. A teen can be constantly reassured that they are loved, and remind them that no matter how awful his problems may seem they can be worked out and you are willing to help. Ask them to talk about his or her feelings, and listen carefully to them. Do not dismiss her problems or get angry with her. On a final note, the removal of all lethal weapons in one’s home, including guns, pills, kitchen utensils and ropes can be a key to preventing teen suicide.
In addition, certain strategies may be helpful when dealing with teens and suicides. For example, never agreeing to keep the discussion of suicide with a teen a secret. Instead, agree to give help and support in getting professional help. Talking about suicide in an open manner is another helpful strategy. Teens need to be given a chance to discuss suicide by voicing their thoughts and opinions. Candid discussion is important particularly when a teen suicide has occurred in a community. Also, letting young people know about hotline telephone numbers and crisis intervention services that are accessible locally will only reassure them that there is indeed help out there.
If one must, risk getting involved. If you suspect suicidal thoughts or behavior in a teen, ask them if she or he is considering suicide. Don’t avoid the subject or wait for the teen to come to you. It is most necessary to be alert to a teen’s feelings. The severity of the problem should be judged from the teen’s perception, not by adult standards. If a teen perceives something as a problem, then it is a problem for him or her.
In the addition to helpful strategies in dealing with teens and suicide, modeling healthy behavior and positive problem-solving approaches will demonstrate to teens how adults can be models for young people by dealing with their stress in a constructive manner. Use of television shows, films, newspaper articles and other media as a trigger for a discussion of effective ways to deal with stress and depression are also practical. Lastly, provide opportunities for group support. Teens sharing problems with other teens that help find solutions can be beneficial (http://www.uky.edu/Agriculture/Sociology/suicide.htm).
Teen suicide is clearly one of the more rapidly growing causes of death for young people today. It is not an infrequent occurrence and can definitely be prevented with the help of proper treatment and action. Depression, pressures in life in general, and the greater access to lethal weapons and drugs are some of the major causes and reasons of suicide. They are all preventable however, in more ways than one. Greta was a firm believer in the age-old saying that sometimes the best way to overcome something is to understand it. Adults need to take the possibility of teen suicide seriously even if their community has not experienced one. Teen depression and thoughts of suicide are more common than many adults assume and there are as many as fifty to one hundred suicide attempts for every young person who actually takes his or her own life. The loving concern of today’s busy parent or the help of a caring friend is important in helping a teen because it lets them know that someone does in fact care about them. Suicide is avoidable, but actions must be taken quickly. Maybe then we can assist in putting a stop to the third leading cause of death in young people today.
Colman, Warren. Understanding and Preventing Teen Suicide. Chicago: Childrens Press Inc. 1990.
Smith, Judie. Coping with Suicide. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 1990.
Nelson, Richard E., Ph.D, and Galas, Judith C. The Power to Prevent Suicide. A Guide for Teens Helping Teens. Minnesota: Free Spirit Publishing Inc., 1994.
“Some Things You Should Know About Preventing Teen Suicide.” American Academy of Pediatrics. 1998. 29 May 2000.
“Suicide Prevention.” Health Info. 2000. 29 May 2000.
Kids Health. 1997-2000. 29 May 2000.
“Preventing Teen Suicide.” University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. 1999. 29 May 2000.