A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates a big increase in the percentage of teenage suicides from 2003 to 2004. For all young people between the ages of 10 and 24, the suicide rate rose 8 percent. This is the biggest single year increase in fifteen years. The largest increase was in the suicide rate for girls aged 10-14, where it went up 78 percent in one year, from 56 suicides in 2003 to 94 suicides in 2004. Suicide rates for girls 15-19 increased 32 percent, and for boys in that age bracket, the rate went up 9 percent. Another dramatic development is in the method that older children and adolescents are now using to kill themselves; the use of firearms has declined, while the use of hanging or suffocation has increased substantially, now accounting for 71 percent of all the suicides in girls aged 10-14.
Experts are puzzled by the rise in the number of teen suicides. Some have suggested that the increase may be related to a decline in the use of antidepressants with teenagers ever since public attention was focused on the suicide risk that antidepressants might hold for depressed adolescents just beginning antidepressant (SSRI) drug theapy. Others point to the increasingly turbulent lives of teenagers in the 21st century. Richard Lieberman, the coordinator of the suicide prevention program in the L.A. Public School System noted in an Associated Press release: “There’s a lot of pressure in and around middle school kids. They’re kind of all transition kids. They’re turbulent times to begin with . . . The hotline’s been ringing off the hook with middle school kids experimenting with a wide variety of self-injurious behavior, exploring different ways to hurt themselves.”
Risk factors associated with teen suicide or suicide attempts include: a previous suicide attempt, depression, alcohol/drug abuse, a family history of mental disorders, substance abuse, stressful life experiences, and/or access to firearms, poisons, or other methods of committing suicide (including hanging and suffocation).
Warning signs of suicide in a young person may include, a sudden change in personality, relationship problems with peers, chronic boredom or difficulty concentrating, comments or writings about suicide, substance abuse problems, major traumas or life transitions, psychosomatic complaints, change in eating or sleeping patterns, deteriorating performance in school, giving away highly-prized personal possessions, negative self-statements, self-destructive behavior, and/or chronic sadness or anxiety.
If you know an adolescent who is considering suicide, or if you are a young person considering suicide, get help immediately by calling 1-800-SUICIDE or by looking up in your local phone book a suicide hotline or crisis center, or find a trusted friend, relative, or mental health professional that you can talk to about what’s bothering you so that you can get help right away.
For more information (including screening programs, list of warning signs, and treatment options), go to these resources:
SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Programs
Yellow Ribbon International Suicide Prevention Program
For more information about other problems associated with adolescence, see my book: The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life
This article was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
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