Can You Prevent Teen Suicide?

May 6, 2010
Recently, a series of unfortunate occurrences regarding teen suicide have shocked the San Francisco Bay Area community. On Feb. 19, 2010, Pleasanton’s Amador Valley High School dealt with major tragedy when an Amador freshman committed suicide by jumping in front of a Caltrain. Previous incidents have also taken place at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, adding to a total of five teen suicides in the Bay Area since May 2009. This might make one wonder if something can be done to put an end to the tragedies.
There appear to be several reasons for a young person to feel suicidal. These may include low self-esteem, weight, depression, bullying or performance expectations issues. Although there are varied causes for suicide, the preventive measures that should be taken are the same. According to the website, four out of five teen suicides occur after the appearance of a number of warning signs. A few of these include disinterest in school, withdrawal from extracurricular activities, giving away personal possessions, significant mood swings, and changes in daily habits. By recognizing and taking these signs seriously, we can help prevent more of these “deadly mistakes.”
Troubled students should be aware of the vast amount of help and support available for them, and understand that ending their life is not the solution. It is vital for us to be educated in recognizing suicidal warning signs and point our distressed peers to resources that provide support. In this way, we can work beforehand to avoid such incidents as what occurred in Pleasanton and Palo Alto. In fact, a succession of teen suicide occurrences can create a suicide “cluster” which gives other teens the false impression that ending your own life is okay or normal.
Not only should students be aware of teen suicide issues, but parents and family members should also be alert to teen depression and mental concerns. Lori Evans, Ph.D. in adolescent issues, says, “Discussing the problem does not encourage the teenager to go through with the [suicide] plan. On the contrary, it will help him or her know that someone is willing to be a friend.” Although teens may have a tendency to push parents away, parents should reach out to their children and express unconditional support.
It is imperative that we proactively create teen suicide awareness now, rather than waiting until something unfortunate happens.

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