About Teen Suicide
The tragedy of a young person dying because of overwhelming hopelessness or frustration is devastating to family, friends, and community. Parents, siblings, classmates, coaches, and neighbors might be left wondering if they could have done something to prevent that young person from turning to suicide.
Learning more about factors that might lead an adolescent to suicide may help prevent further tragedies. Even though it's not always preventable, it's always a good idea to be informed and take action to help a troubled teenager.
About Teen Suicide
The reasons behind a teen's suicide or attempted suicide can be complex. Although suicide is relatively rare among children, the rate of suicides and suicide attempts increases tremendously during adolescence.
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents and homicide. It's also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.
The risk of suicide increases dramatically when kids and teens have access to firearms at home, and nearly 60% of all suicides in the United States are committed with a gun. That's why any gun in your home should be unloaded, locked, and kept out of the reach of children and teens.
Overdose using over-the-counter, prescription, and non-prescription medicine is also a very common method for both attempting and completing suicide. It's important to monitor carefully all medications in your home. Also be aware that teens will "trade" different prescription medications at school and carry them (or store them) in their locker or backpack.
Suicide rates differ between boys and girls. Girls think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys, and tend to attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves. Yet boys die by suicide about four times as often girls, perhaps because they tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.
Which Teens Are at Risk for Suicide?
It can be hard to remember how it felt to be a teen, caught in that gray area between childhood and adulthood. Sure, it's a time of tremendous possibility but it also can be a period of stress and worry. There's pressure to fit in socially, to perform academically, and to act responsibly.
Adolescence is also a time of sexual identity and relationships and a need for independence that often conflicts with the rules and expectations set by others.
Young people with mental health problems — such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or insomnia — are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts. Teens going through major life changes (parents' divorce, moving, a parent leaving home due to military service or parental separation, financial changes) and those who are victims of bullying are at greater risk of suicidal thoughts.
Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include:
- a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug use (in fact, approximately 95% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of death)
- feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
- feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression
- a previous suicide attempt
- a family history of depression or suicide
- emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
- dealing with bisexuality or homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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