The Cause of Teen Suicide
Suicide is the process of purposely ending one’s life. This is one phenomenon plaguing teenagers in today’s world. A family loses a loved one to suicide approximately every 40 sec (who.int). Suicidal behavior has become a major health concern all over the world especially amongst teenagers. Since the past decade, there has been a rising trend of teenage suicide in America. This is indicative of the overwhelming effect of societal pressures put on them. Over the years, suicide has always been linked to disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and some social precipitants such as unacceptable sexuality and body image. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, depression is defined as despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. As a result of depression, teenagers “take to a permanent solution to a temporary problem, though without a genuine intent to die” (who.int).
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide has been linked to psychological factors such as coping with “depression and bipolar disorder; mental disorders; alcohol and substance abuse; and social stressors” (apa.org). The World Health Organization notes that social stressors are typically “coping with the loss of a loved one, bullying prevalent amongst high school students, cyber-bullying, break-ups of boyfriends and girlfriends, failing a big exam, witnessing a family turmoil, discrimination as a result of a different sexual orientation, media’s representation of an acceptable body image” (who.int). Apparently, these are all factors associated with the teenage population. For instance a teenager can become depressed in if he or she is frequently bullied by classmates in school. Some are also in the form of cyber-bullying. According to the North Carolina Law of Journal and Technology, “cyber-bullying can be defined as an action or behavior on the internet intended to hurt or harass another person” (heinonline.org). Most teenagers are never bold to report such incidences, so they take to isolation; a teen that was once bold to engage in extracurricular activities suddenly gets withdrawn. Most bullies are aware that most of their prey never report, so they capitalize on the power of secrecy and continue to inflict harm on them. The poor teenager suddenly starts isolating himself from activities that once produced joy, and that’s where the thoughts of suicide are nursed to become a supposed remedy to their problem. Just like depression, another disorder believed to awaken suicidal tendencies, especially in youths is bipolar disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “ Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks “. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide (nimh.nih.org). This disorder is quite similar to depression, and also makes a teen take to isolation; this is when suicidal thoughts are carried out. Loss of a loved one by a teenager immediately induces shock, “and symptoms of depression such as disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, intense sadness and lack of energy” (afsp.org). Also a teenager who was physically or sexually abused can become depressed for a long time. “Abused children are at significantly increased risk for suffering a variety of medical, emotional, behavioral, relational and social problems that can affect them lifelong” (academicdepartments.musc.edu). A teenager’s mind is framed in such a way that it can retain information for a long time, that even after recovering from the trauma, the episodes keep on playing in their minds for a long time. This can cause teenagers to develop low self-esteem, uncontrollable fear and lack of confidence. This causes a likelihood of a teenager not only getting depressed but also causes the teenager to refrain from integrating with society. The teenager begins to isolate himself/herself from everyone else, believing he/she is left with no other option but suicide. Scientists have reported also that teens with a different sexual orientation, that is, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender youths, are at risk of suicidal behavior. According to Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the greater risk of suicidal behavior among LGBT youth may be seen as largely a function of our social environment, including discrimination and stigma. LGBT teens develop low self esteem because of the lack of support from family members and discrimination from their peers. “Research indicates that LGBT youths have significantly higher rates of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation than their heterosexual peers” (sprc.org). According to World Health Organization, the media also plays a major role in glamorizing suicide.
It is clear that suicide is really caused by depression and what happens after one is depressed. Depression is a mediator of the process of the act of suicide, with initial stressors and isolation at either ends, this means that social stressors like discrimination as a result of a teenagers sexuality leads to depressive states in the teenager which causes the teen to develop a low self esteem, thereby causing the teenager to isolate himself/herself.
This is when suicidal thoughts creep in; and the obvious result is either death by suicide or attempted suicide. Isolation makes one vulnerable to all manner of thoughts with suicide not being an exception. Suicide in teenagers can be prevented if it is stopped before a kid starts isolating himself or a kid who once engaged in a lot of activities suddenly starts keeping to himself. A depressed teen home alone in a house where his parents keep loaded handguns could easily take his own life. But this could have been stopped if he was under continuous surveillance.
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide (HELPGUIDE.org). According to American Association for Suicide Prevention, each year over 34000 people die by suicide in the United States. 6% of all suicidal deaths can be traced to young people because of the lack of emotional control associated with this age (ABS.gov). Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst gay and lesbian youths (PFLAGPHEONIX.org). Suicide in the U.S is the “third-leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years” (NAMI.org). The growing rate of suicide could be reduced drastically if parents become more supportive and refrain from keeping firearms in the home and sexual discrimination is brought to a halt and the media stops glamorizing the act of suicide. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, the risk of dying from a suicide in the home was greater for males in homes with guns than for males without guns in the home (OXFORDJOURNALS.org). The media should be more engaged in educating the public about prevention of suicidal attempts as opposed to painting a picture of heroism.
To put an end to teen suicide in the world especially America, we must first realize that no teenager ever genuinely intended to take his or her own life. It was all in a bid to escape rejection, discrimination, hurt and loss and thinking they had no other option but suicide. Parents and school counselors should pay more attention to troubled teens and teens with a drastic change in behavior. Since this has become a major issue affecting our teens, there should be more courses introduced into the curricula, especially courses that elaborate more on the appreciation of life. There should be more accessible crisis hotlines. “National suicide prevention efforts have focused on school education programs, crisis center hotlines, screening programs that seek to identify at-risk adolescents, media guidelines (suicide prevention strategies that involve educating media professionals about the prevalence of copy-cat suicides among adolescents, in an effort to minimize the impact of news stories reporting suicide) and efforts to limit firearm access” (APA.org). “In 2001, the US Department of health released the “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP).., which seeks to be an agent for social change, working to transform attitudes towards mental illness, influence policies, and direct resources to prevention services” (NCLC.org). In the next couple of years, the rate of suicide would be reduced to the barest minimum if not completely eradicated.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2009). Risk taking by Young People. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Chapter5002008
Berman, A., Jobes, D. & Silverman, M. (2006). Teen Suicide is Preventable. Retrieved from American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/research/action/suicide.aspx
Dahlberg, L. L., Ikeda, R. M., & Kresnow, M. (2004, June). Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study. Retrieved from American Journal of Epidemiology http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full
Kessler, et al. (2005, May). Prevalence of Suicide Ideation. Retrieved from National Conference of State Legislatures http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/teen-suicide-prevention.aspx
Medical University of South Carolina. (2004, April). Child Physical and Sexual Abuse: Guidelines for Treatment. Retrieved from http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/ncvc/resources_prof/OVC_guidelines04-26-04.p df
PFLAG Phoenix. (2010). Today’s Gay Youth: The Ugly, Frightening Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.pflagphoenix.org/education/youth_stats.html
Shaffer, D., (1999, November). Teenage Suicide. Retrieved from National Alliance on Mental Illness http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/Teenage_Suicide.htm
Smith, M., Segal, J., & Robinson, L. (2012, January). Suicide Prevention. Retrieved from http://helpguide.org/mental/suicide_prevention.htm
Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2008). Suicide risk and prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Retrieved from http://www.sprc.org/sites/sprc.org/files/library/SPRC_LGBT_Youth.pdf
http://www.calvin.edu/library/knightcite/index.php U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtm l
Wasserman, D., Cheng, Q,, & Jiang, G. (2005, June). Global Suicide Rates Among Young People Ages 15-19. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414751/
World Health Organization. (2009). Suicide Risk High for Young People. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/multimedia/podcasts/2009/suicide_prevention_20090 915/en/index.html