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The Tragic Death - Teen Suicide
Pull the plug, snuff oneself, kick the bucket, jump, doing the dutch, off themselves, swallowed the bullet, eat lead – no matter how it is phrased, it means the same. Suicide is when a person intentionally takes his or her own life. For every eleven attempted teen suicides in the United States, there is one successful suicide (Suicide in the U.S.). But successful is too much of a happy word for such a tragic event. This topic is a sensitive one. Suicide has many factors involved and is complex to handle. But with the advances in psychology, awareness has been built and it isn’t as uncomfortable to talk about anymore (Keilman). Though a uncommon event, teen suicides are tragic and leave those who knew the victim scarred. Teens who see suicide as an answer are crying for help and need to be heard.
Suicide is the third highest killer of teenagers between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five and the fifth highest killer of teens ages five to fourteen (Facts for Families). It is horrible to see a young person think that leaving the world, when they still have so much to accomplish, is the only way for their problems to disappear. If anything, suicide makes the problem worse for the people left behind by the teen. Suicide is ALWAYS treatable because the road that led them there was built by some type of mental disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder (Facts for Families). So many teens see themselves as lost causes and have no hope anymore – but it is exactly the opposite. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for every suicidal teen.
Teen suicide has tripled in the United States over the past thirty years, now between five and six thousand suicides per year, with over one hundred thousand suicides attempted (Gordon 25). This rate has grown so high for many reasons. The brain doesn't fully develop until the age of twenty-eight and the last part of the brain to develop is the frontal lobe – the front part of the brain that contributes to decision making and the ability to see the consequences of your actions – which is a reason why teenagers think suicide will solve a problem (Lima).
Not only that, but our society today has become too stressful for teens and pressure builds up. There is easier access to pills and weapons; getting good grades and getting into a nice college is harder; there is much more violence in the media; parental involvement in a teenagers life has changed, from having two parents in the workforce to parents being divorced. A natural feeling for teenagers, and ninety percent of suicidal teens, is to see their parents as not understanding them (Preventing Teen Suicide). There is never just one factor to why a teen would want to kill themselves, and the blame shouldn't automatically go to the parents because they could be doing all they can. Every situation is different; every situation has an answer.
For teenagers, hormones and new responsibilities begin to fall down on them like a ton of bricks. Hormones begin to rage through their systems, leaving them fragile and on the verge of going nuts. Yet it is the time between childhood and adulthood when new freedoms and new responsibilities are offered that allow teens to branch out and become themselves. These two situations combined can cause stress, confusion, and self-doubt to arise (Facts for Families). And thanks to the special situation of being a teen, events such as the pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, divorce, a new family, and moving can take place and might plague a teenager as well. They may not be able to handle this imbalance and will look to suicide to save them.
Note that not every teenager will attempt suicide because of these problems and are able to handle them in a more civil way. Take a divorce for example – thirteen million teens come from divorced households, but most of them don't consider suicide. It doesn't mean that the separation of parents isn't a major cause of teen suicide (Gordon 25). Teenagers can also have difficulty accepting failure and disappointment in their life. Being rejected by a girlfriend or boyfriend, in a teenagers eyes, can seem like the end of the world. Thinking they can love no one else and believing they have just lost their soul mate, a teenager could use suicide as a ploy to get them back by saying things like, “I can't go on without you!” and “I will only ever love you!” while standing on the edge of a cliff with a gun placed to their temple.
The most common cause of teen suicide, however, is mental illness – such as depression, bipolar disorder, post dramatic stress disorder, multiple personality disorder, etc. – which can account for ninety-five percent of all teen suicides (About Teen Suicide). A teen can develop a mental illness from family genetics (mom or dad has depression and the kid has depression), having been abused sexually or physically (bullying is a major ailment to teens today), they could be having feelings of homosexuality – about ten percent of the population is gay (Gordon 65), and/or a sudden stressful event could come about in their life (death of a loved one or pregnancy).
It is important to understand also that if a teen has attempted suicide before, and didn't succeed, it doesn't mean that they won't try again. And just being around someone or knowing of someone who committed suicide can make teenagers think it is a good idea (Suicide in the US). Maybe a celebrity committed suicide and their fans will think it is cool, or won't be able to go on without their idol, and they will also attempt/commit suicide. Teenagers might also use suicide as a way to gain attention. No matter the cause for a teen to consider suicide, it shouldn't go unnoticed (Gordon 21). It isn't normal to use death to gain attention, yet so many say, “Well, they won't do it,” and “Just ignore them. We can't help them.” Those teens are obviously crying out, which is why people need to be more aware of the quiet pleas made by the majority of suicidal teens.
It is natural for teenagers to keep their feelings to themselves. Teens can have emotions raging through them, feelings of isolation and hopelessness, that they don't speak about to people (About Teen Suicide). However walled-off they may become, these young boys and girls will show signs that are silent cries to the world that they are hurting. There are three “steps” to a possible suicide.
The first step resembles the symptoms of depression, the beginning of the pleas and suffering. Eating and sleeping routines will change; they will separate themselves from their hobbies and friends; they may start acting out in rebellious ways, such as using drugs and alcohol; they will stop taking care of their physical appearances; their personality can alter; they will be bored easily and won't do their normal activities; may have physical problems that aren't really there, such as stomachaches, headaches, and fatigue; they don't want any attention anymore (Facts for Families).
The second step to a possible suicide is very crucial, where a teen will begin to think about dying. They will verbally criticize themselves; they will say things that will hint suicide, maybe hinting they are leaving or they won't be noticed when they are gone; they can have increasing self-destructive behavior, like cutting themselves (About Teen Suicide).
The third step to a possible suicide is after they have made their choice and begin to prepare to leave. The teen will begin to give away precious items and take care of final matters that are important to them; they will become happy after being sad for a long time; they might show signs of psychosis, meaning they will be hearing or talking to people not there and/or will have false beliefs about events and/or who someone may be (Facts for Families).
When life has become too unbearable, and the teenager has set their mind on dying, they will try and go through with their plan. Teenage girls are two times more likely to attempt suicide than boys, who are four times more likely to die from suicide than girls are (About Teen Suicide). Girls are more likely to use poison or cutting themselves because they have hopes someone will save them at the last minute from dying – a romantic death. Boys are more likely to use lethal means, such as jumping, hanging, or using a gun because they see it as a manly way to go. Teenagers think that when they die, they are going to be forgotten and no one will care. However, many people around these victims (family, friends, co-workers, peers) are affected – no matter how close they may have been with the teen (Lima).
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is always difficult, especially when their death could have been prevented. Teenagers around a suicide victim can feel guilty, and it can be worse if they were closer to the person (About Teen Suicide). Since suicide is preventable, the victim's peers may realize they could have done something to help. They might beat themselves up for not seeing the obvious signs they were showing, the obvious pain they were suffering from. Sometimes teenagers will reflect anger for the situation – they think the victim was being selfish when they decided to kill themselves. Also, the peers may show no emotion at all, not sure what to feel under the circumstances. Shock, sadness, and shame are other emotions that might be expressed by people (Schleifer 53). If the teenager attempted, but didn't succeed, their peers can be scared or uncomfortable around them. They might not have known they were suffering and don't want to make matters worse for anyone.
The parents of the victim can feel pain and grief – any parent feels this over the loss of his or her child (About Teen Suicide). The victim's siblings might hide their feelings to help their parents deal with the matter. People can become isolated from the world for a while, scared to face it without the person they've lost. Important days in the teenage victim's life, such as birthdays and holidays, can make these feelings reemerge or get worse. In some cases, teenagers will kill themselves after a peer has done it – these are called cluster suicides. Leaving the world can be a scary idea, but if a teen does it with someone else, they won't feel alone in their feelings. These are probably the most tragic of all suicides. To help prevent any of these events taking place, there are ways to help a troubled teenager, thanks to many studies and advances in science.
“Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. A person who appears suicidal should not be left alone and needs immediate mental-health treatment” (Suicide in the US). Suicide isn't a joke – it needs to be taken seriously, no matter who may be considering it. Judging a teenager for thinking about suicide will only make his or her situation spin out of control (Lima). If a teen is thinking about suicide, they most likely have a misconception that they are alone and no one will miss them when they are gone. It is important to put it into their head that it is just the opposite, and they might reconsider and want to seek help (Facts for Families). Getting rid of possible items that could assist a suicidal teenager with their plans should happen fairly quickly after the discovery of their intentions (Preventing Teen Suicide). Mentioning the word suicide isn't going to put ideas in their heads. Talk to the teenager about their plans, let them know they are understood. That doesn't mean to agree with their ideas.
In Illinois, the Oak Lawn Community High School screens their incoming freshmen for signs of a mental illness or suicidal tendencies by giving them a questionnaire, giving them an opportunity to speak out about their feelings (Keilman). A student at this school said, “If you don't ask … you're not going to get an answer.” A state law in Illinois requires all educators to have proper training to deal with suicidal teens. It's amazing how much awareness has been built up over the years about suicide and how much people really care for the youth and their struggles. But this is just one state that has started to really enforce prevention.
Across the country young teens aren't getting the help they need and are slipping further and further into paths of despair. People around suicidal teenagers shouldn't be taking on this heavy burden alone, so it is key that a professional psychologist or psychiatrist be contacted immediately when their intentions are discovered (Preventing Teen Suicide). They are trained to know exactly what path should be taken for each situation they come across. Having a neutral person to talk to can make talking more bearable for the suffering teenager (About Teen Suicide). At this point, all friends and family can do is show their support to the teen who is in the process of healing.
Professionals treat suicidal teens in different ways. Professionals treat the cause for suicide, therefore eliminating the threat (Lima). For a majority of suicidal teenagers, cognitive therapy is used – a psychotherapy that helps prevent a repeated suicide attempt by fifty percent (Suicide in the US). This helps them think about other choices when they are having suicidal feelings. For those teens who are suffering from borderline personality disorder, a dialectical behavior therapy helps fifty percent more people compared to other therapies. Schizophrenic teenagers most likely will be put on the medication Clozapine. Doctors who see patients on a regular schedule are trained to noticed possible suicidal behavior in teenagers, so having them up to date with what is going on with the teen is important. A safety plan will also be set up for the teenager by their therapist (Lima). The therapist motivates the teen by having them do things they enjoy. They are told to focus on the good things in their lives and the therapist helps them have a more positive outlook on life. The teen is also left with a crisis hotline number that they can call anytime.
Crisis hotlines are a great tool for when a teenager is having suicidal thoughts and can't go to someone for immediate help (Schleifer 43). Suicidal teens will keep to themselves and will be scared to talk to someone face-to-face. These hotlines are set up so the teenager can let out all their built-up frustration and pain to a person who knows exactly how to handle the matter. Crisis interventions has a four-step process: the hotline worker allows the teenager to let out all their built up emotions verbally, the teenager and the worker communicate about the issue at hand, the hotline worker will take one step at a time (so not to overwhelm the teen any more), and they will have several solutions ready for the teen. Hotlines are really important to help in the healing process, and they are open 24/7 no matter what. Helping a suicidal teen can be complex and will take a long time, but it can and will be done.
Suicide is seen as a solution for some teenagers and they need to know that their life gets better. There are many struggles around them and some of them can't think clearly. The people around them need to be aware of their suffering and try to aid them in their battles the best they can. Suicidal teenagers can always be helped, no matter what their struggle is. It is up to the people in the world to prevent teen suicides. Knowledge is the first step.