On Teenage Suicide

Suicide is definitely one of those unpleasant subjects that many people would like to pretend doesn’t exist or at least can’t happen to someone they know and love.

As a matter of fact, one of the most depressing and yet helpful books I’ve ever read was entitled: Psychotherapy with Suicidal People.

On Suicide

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between 14 and 25, and about 30,000 people in the United States commit suicide each year.

Since I’ve been working in the mental health field I’ve counseled literally hundreds of people who have either attempted suicide or have thought about suicide seriously enough that they needed hospitalization to keep themselves safe from themselves.

I’ve also assisted in crisis counseling at various schools. It’s extremely depressing to walk into a huge auditorium filled with grieving students and staff after a young person has taken his or her life.

Why Do People Commit Suicide?

This is a question I get asked very often and the answer is simple, yet complex. According the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 90% of people who commit suicide had a diagnosable mental illness, but there are other reasons including:

      • Psychological Disorders (i.e., depression, bi-polar disorder, agression, schizophrenia)
      • Bullying
      • Stress
      • Work
      • Money
      • Relationships

For teenagers, bullying seems to be an increasing reason to why teens commit suicide. It’s truly tragic that we live in a society that today is so connected that bullying takes on a whole new life.

Kids are now not only getting bullied at school, but in cyberspace where everyone can see, and yet no one seems to be doing anything.

On December 27th, 2011, Amanda Cummings, a 15 year old, stepped in front of a bus and killed herself after being tormented mercilessly by her bullies. A suicide note was found in her clothes.

I recently starting counseling a teenage girl who’s 20 year old brother hung himself with a dog leash last week. I didn’t know him, but from what she’s said it sounds like he may have had some struggles with depression.

He had gotten into a fight with his girlfriend and told her he was going to kill himself, something he apparently had threatened many times so she didn’t take him seriously. They found him less than an hour later hanging from a tree in the backyard.

And not too long ago here in Orlando, a man killed himself after getting in a fight with his girlfriend, telling her he was going to kill himself, and then drove the wrong way on the interstate killing himself and another motorist in a head on collision.

Other times, there may seem to be no precipitating events.

Two years ago I went to assist in suicide counseling at a high school where a popular and seemingly happy lacrosse player took his own life.

His friends and family were all blaming themselves for not knowing that he felt so sad and alone, but there weren’t many signs as far as I could tell, he seemed to be hiding his emotional pain and struggles very well.

However, in most cases there are signs to look at for.

Suicide Warning Signs Include:

      • withdrawal from friends and family members
      • trouble in romantic relationships
      • difficulty getting along with others
      • changes in the quality of schoolwork or lower grades
      • rebellious behaviors
      • unusual gift-giving or giving away personal possessions
      • appearing bored or distracted
      • writing or drawing pictures about death
      • running away from home
      • changes in eating habits
      • dramatic personality changes
      • changes in appearance (for the worse)
      • sleep disturbances
      • drug or alcohol abuse
      • talk of suicide, even in a joking way
      • having a history of previous suicide attempts

Sometimes the reasons people don’t recognize the signs of suicide is because they are in denial, especially when it comes to those close to them. When dealing with suicide, denying that someone is in need of help can cost them their life.

Suicide Prevention

If you know someone who is thinking about, talking about or you think may be at risk for suicide don’t ignore them. Often times there is a misconception that people who talk about suicide don’t end up killing themselves, but this is untrue.

Many people who end up killing themselves have mentioned suicide to someone directly or in directly, so take them seriously.

If you believe there is an immediate threat call 911, they may need emergency hospitalization. Otherwise they can seek individual and family therapy and there is always the suicide hotline (1-800-SUICIDE).

11 thoughts on “On Teenage Suicide

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