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Teen Suicide

Suicide takes the life of 703,000 people every year. And statistics show that many more people attempt suicide. Although suicide may arise throughout the lifespan, it is the fourth leading cause of death among the ages between 15-29 year-olds globally in 2019.

What Are Suicidal Thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts are fantasies, ideas, or images related to taking one's own life. However, thinking about suicide does not necessarily mean that a teen will make an actual suicide attempt. Many teens have suicidal thoughts, but these do not progress to suicide plans or suicide attempts. For some, thoughts of suicide range from fleeting to planning on how to end their life.

Suicidal thoughts can either be passive or active. A passive suicidal thought includes having vague ideas about committing suicide. Though they view suicide as a means to end the pain, they do nothing to act upon it. Active suicidal thought, on the other hand, is when the thoughts of suicide are becoming persistent that the teen begins to take steps to carry out a suicide attempt.

Reasons For Teen Suicides

Depression is the leading cause of suicide in teens. Depression changes a person's thoughts, feelings, and actions. When situations become overwhelming, that is when suicidal thoughts might start to play in their heads. Other reasons why teens develop suicidal thoughts include the following:

  • Recent loss - this includes the death of a family member, a friend, or a pet. Separation or divorce of parents, ending a romantic relationship, as well as losing a job or home, can bring a profound sense of loss for teens.

  • A mental health disorder such as depression, trauma, anxiety, and other mood and stress-related disorders can heighten the chance of developing suicidal thoughts.

  • Alcohol and drug abuse can form high-risk behaviors among teens.

  • Being in an unrespectful environment can be difficult for teens. They may find it hard to open up about their feelings, especially regarding their sexual orientation.

  • Family matters - it can be highly concerning when a teen lives with a family member with a history of suicide. Teens exposed to domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect are among the high-risk.

  • When teens do not feel supported by loved ones and friends, they may isolate themselves from them. In their moment of darkness, suicide may present itself as the only solution to end their misery.

  • Bullied teens are at high risk of developing suicidal thoughts. Although this is the case, teens who are bullies at school can also exhibit suicidal behavior.

  • It is also important to note that easy access to lethal objects such as guns, pesticides, and prescription medicines increases the risk of suicide.

The Warning Signs

Suicide is not limited to adults, contrary to common belief, but the symptoms and signs are often different in teens. Teens will try to hide their suicidal thoughts from their loved ones out of fear of judgment and feeling guilty. These can make it hard to notice warning signs. Some warning signs for teenage suicide may include the following:

  • Casually talking about suicide and death – includes any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting, and other types of self-harm.

  • Wishing they had not been born.

  • Asking about death and searching online for ways on how to commit suicide.

  • Talking about leaving or going away and wanting to vanish

  • Giving away their favorite things or throwing away important belongings as they feel that they will not need them soon.

  • As teens start to feel worthless, guilty, and shameful, they begin to think that their family and friends are better off without them. They will start to isolate themselves.

  • Easily angered and edgier than usual

  • Their normal routine starts to change; losing interest in activities and hobbies that they used to enjoy.

  • Neglecting their physical appearance is a tall tale sign as well. Teens with suicidal thoughts tend to lose interest in caring for how they look.

  • Getting in trouble and becoming self-destructive – include starting and being involved in physical fights with others and hurting themselves. That might also involve habitual drinking and abusing substances.

Ways to Prevent Teenage Suicide

Suicide is a serious health problem among teens; however, it is preventable with early intervention. The World Health Organization formulated an approach to suicide prevention and recommended the following effective evidence-based interventions:

  • Limit access to the means of suicide like pesticides, firearms, and prescription drugs. Hide sharp objects, guns, and poisonous materials from their sight.

  • Interact with the media for responsible reporting of suicide. Suicide can have a domino effect on teens. As much as possible, suicide should be carefully dealt with to prevent triggering another one.

  • Foster socio-emotional life skills in teens.

  • Identify, assess, and manage anyone who is showing suicidal tendencies. Follow through with support and let them know that someone cares.

Take Action

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or a family member or a friend is showing signs of suicidal thoughts, take action. Here are some ways you can prevent suicide:

  • By addressing any threat to a teen's mental health, it will address depression on its onset. Since depression is the leading cause of suicide, treatment and management are essential to prevent any untoward event.

  • Seek professional help. Schedule an appointment with a doctor or reach out to a mental health professional.

  • More importantly, never ignore suicide threats. Do not leave a teen who is showing signs of suicide alone. Never suggest that their threats are their way of seeking attention as this can do more harm to them.

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