Who is killing the children? Who iscommitting the senseless acts of violence that annually leavemore teenagers dead than disease or accidents? Who is cuttingoff promising young lives just as they begin, leaving only onequestion: why?
Who is killing the children?
Thechildren are killing themselves.
Suicide, the numberone cause of death among teenagers today, is a taboo issue inAmerican society when, ironically, it has never needed to bediscussed more. Parents dismiss the idea with excuses such as,"My child would never do that," or "Only kids from the wrongside of the tracks kill themselves." But how can thesestatements be true when the number of suicides increases eachyear?
What is causing these suicides? The main reasonis depression. This disease is getting more and morerecognition and many are seeking help, but some parents tendto treat depressed children as if they are merely passingthrough a phase. Though curable if recognized and treated,depression can be fatal if ignored.
While the causes ofdepression vary widely, among young people causes are oftendeceptively simple. A failing grade, an imagined slight, afight with a friend or parent - all of these can send a childinto a dangerous tailspin. These are all little things, butmany teens lack the perspective to deal with them andconsequently blow the problems out of proportion until theyseem unbearable. Other causes include loneliness, rejection,recent loss, intense stress and fatigue, major changes in lifeor low self-esteem.
What are some symptoms ofdepression? A few include loss of hope, retreat from familyand friends, boredom with activities previously enjoyed andchanges in appetite/rapid weight gain or loss. Signs ofsuicidal behavior (which should never be ignored) areself-mutilation, talk of death or suicide, giving awaytreasured possessions, dramatic changes of lifestyle and useof drugs or alcohol. These signs are not to be confused withnormal teenage behaviors including moodiness, increasedsensitivity, moderate changes in dress or friendships, desirefor privacy and experimenting with dieting.
Treatmentfor depression is widely available through therapy, medicationand physical treatment and, in some cases, hospitalization.Treatment should be sought as soon as a problem is recognizedto prevent the advance of the disease. Also, depression couldbe a symptom of a more serious psychological disorder, such asschizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and suchillnesses can be uncovered during treatment fordepression.
There are many hotlines and support groupsfor the depressed and suicidal. Here are two:
The TeenLetter Project
P.O. Box 936
Pacific Palisades,CA 90272
The Yellow RibbonProject
P.O. Box 644
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.