Understanding Suicide

Teenage Suicide: Are We Doing Enough?

Adolescent suicide is an increasing problem in today’s society. Unfortunately, parents and individuals are unaware of the high risk of suicide that accompanies teenage life. There are many factors and warning signs that one can observe if there is a problem with a suicidal child. Unfortunately, school and community programs are not efficient in combating this problem amongst teens. Prevention of adolescent suicide depends on the family involved in the child’s life as well as those people close to the child. Although, there are many programs that are designed to prevent suicide, these programs are ineffective.

In these times of chaos, war and tragedy, it is not surprising that the rate of adolescent suicide has increased. Children are going to extreme lengths to end their lives and parents are unaware of this increasing risk. Several warning signs are revealed when a child is contemplating suicide. In order to save a child’s life, it is extremely important that individuals, who are in close proximity, are aware of the signs that are exposed before a suicide takes place. There are many programs that are available to assist individuals in preventing suicide. However, due to the increasing numbers of adolescent suicide, parents and individuals are not doing enough to combat this problem. People need to be aware of the prevalence of adolescent suicide in order for problems to be handled without tragic consequences.

John McIntosh, for the American Association of Suicidology, compiled the following information in 2004: adolescent suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death of people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four years of age. The total amount of suicides completed was 32, 439. Of that total, 23,081 were white males and 6,170 were white females. The total number of black males that committed suicide totaled 1,655. Black females totaled 364. There is definitely a pattern in which males are completing suicide at a much higher rate than females. “A slight increase from 2003 was seen in 2004, but [the] pattern has primarily been stable or slight declines in [the] recent years” (McIntosh, 2004). Also, on average, it has been found that 1 person every 16 minutes killed themselves and 1 young person every 2 hours and 2.1 minutes killed themselves. If we calculate people below the ages of 15, that average increases to one young person every hour and fifty-four minutes (McIntosh, 2004). “While current statistics provide a general picture of the incidence of completed suicide, the figures grossly underestimate the true number. Actual incidence rates are estimated to be 2-3 times that reported” (Sommer, 1984). Unfortunately, these numbers reveal that a considerably high number of teens are committing suicide. It is of great importance that individuals, family, and friends alike are aware of the warning signs that accompany suicide in order for one to be capable of preventing such a horrible occurrence.

According to McKee (as cited by Maples. Et al., 2005), there are several warning signs that may indicate possible suicide ideation. It is important to note that these signs must be revealed in combination rather than in isolation. The warning signs include: feelings of low self-esteem, poor self-concept, helplessness, shame, humiliation, embarrassment, listlessness, tension, and irritability. Teens may also express self-destructive thoughts, overt sadness or depression. Acting out behaviors that may mask depression, sudden personality changes, and neglect of appearance are possible indicators as well. Teens may isolate themselves by withdrawing from their social group. They may also pass on prized objects to loved ones. Academic performance may decline due to difficulty in concentrating or persistent boredom. Another concern to be aware of is the amount of time the troubled individual battles through these difficult occurrences. “Although an impending suicide attempt may be indicated if an adolescent experiences these struggles for an extended period of time, a caring adult can still offer support and guidance in a child’s life during a crisis whether or not it is believed that a suicide attempt is a possible outcome” (Maples. Et al, 2005).

The incidence of adolescent suicide can be attributed to a number of factors. These factors are combined to create an overwhelming sense of helplessness and a lack of control of one’s life. The following list contains factors of adolescent suicide which was compiled by a former student and I of California State University Northridge: Drug and/or alcohol abuse, depression and/or other mental disorders, low self-esteem, poor or abusive relationships with parents, severe dysfunction in family life, loss of an intimate relationship with a loved one, contagion (the act of someone attempting or committing suicide may lead to an increased number of attempts), a traumatic event, sexual abuse, parental abuse, divorce and a lack of parental bond or trust. “Suicide in adolescence is the end result of an extensive history of social and familial instability characterized by recurring losses of love objects and the existence of few meaningful relationships” (Sommer, 1984).

There are a number of suicide prevention and postvention programs that are available to help individuals in their time of need as well as crisis hot-line counseling. However, due to the increasing number of suicide completions, it appears as though those programs lack what is necessary to combat this problem in it’s entirety. Therefore, I will not focus on those programs. Instead, I have composed a list of tips for parents that I believe are necessary to prevent this crisis. First of all, what is necessary is a strong support group from family and friends. Second, parents need to develop a bond with their child when they are young and maintain it throughout their life regardless of the difficulties life presents. Parents need to ensure that their child can talk to them about any problems that may arise in their life. Thirdly, parents need to ask questions and be completely involved in their child’s life. They need to demand to know where their children are going, whom they are with, and what they are doing. Parents should always be in contact with other parents. Also, parents need to be aware of the effects of their life on their child. Since life may bring about circumstances that are difficult for parents, they must be willing to put their life on hold for their child. Lastly, parents should spend ample time with their child regardless of the time that needs to be dedicated to other areas of their life.

Statistics show a slight change in the rate of adolescent suicide in recent years. There are several factors and warning signs that contribute to the increasing rates of suicide. It is important that close friends and family be aware of the high-risk of suicide and are knowledgeable in the steps to take to stop individuals from harming themselves.

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