Teens and Suicide

The Japanese film, Suicide Club, begins when a group of 54 chirpy schoolgirls cheerfully plunge in front of the oncoming train, followed by a dozen or so high school students who jump off the top of a building. In Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, the Lisbon sister’s girls killed themselves: one jumped out of their second story window and impaled herself on an iron fence, one stuck her head in the gas oven, one took sleeping pills, one hanged herself, and one died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

These films are works of fiction, but are reflective of a society where teenagers are increasingly becoming depressed and sad. This article includes statistics about teen suicides in the United States and tackles possible causes of suicide and how to help a friend or yourself.

How prevalent is teen suicide?

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) is alarming. While the suicide rate for those aged 10-24 years in the US significantly decreased by over 28% from 1990 to 2003, suicide deaths in the country remain high.

In fact, the rate increased by 8% in 2994, the largest single-year rise in 15 years. There were about 4,600 suicides (ages 10-24) in 2004, up from around 4,200 suicides in 2003. Suicide is the third top cause of death for those aged 15-24.

What drives teen suicide?

Teenagers who think about suicide often feel sad after stressful and depressing events. Some of them feel so crushed that they think ending their lives is the only way out.

The following are some things that may cause these feelings: death of a loved one, broken and dysfunctional family, violence at home, having difficult times in school, difficulty coping with other teens, drug or alcohol problems, feeling alone or left out, rejection, a relationship break-up, and feeling like you do not belong. But many teens feel sad for no clear reason.

According to Dr. Keri Lubell, a behavioral scientist in CDC’s Injury Center, "It is important for parents, health care professionals, and educators to recognize the warning signs of suicide in youth," adding that, "Parents and other caring adults should look for changes in youth such as talking about taking one’s life, feeling sad or hopeless about the future. Also look for changes in eating or sleeping habits and even losing the desire to take part in favorite activities."

How to help a friend?

You must take it very seriously if a friend talks to you about committing suicide. You have to confide this matter to an adult you trust as soon as possible. This adult can be someone in your or your friend’s family, a teacher, a counselor, a coach, or a school nurse. You cannot help your friend alone. He or she will need a professional help and a strong support system, including family, friends, and teachers.

How to help yourself?

If you feel sad, alone, and depressed, and are having suicidal thoughts, you have talk to a trusted adult right away. You can also call 911, 1-800-SUICIDE, or any suicide crisis center, which offers professionals who can help you talk through your problems.

Suicide crisis centers also have experts to help you develop a plan of action. Life may suck at times, but these bad times do not last forever. Do not hurt yourself. Life is full of beauty and hope.