There is certainly something very wrong when a teenager attempts to or commits suicide!
Why then is teenage suicide among one of the world’s leading health problems?
What is going wrong?
In contemplating teenage suicide, one may envision a poor, depraved, different-looking, or in some other way impoverished teen as a candidate for such a thing.
Before we get into that, lets look at the facts.
According to Hazelden, a leading source of behavioral health research and substance abuse issues:
- Suicide among teens is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds
- It is the second leading cause among death in college students
- There are 50 to 200 suicide attempts for every completion
- Almost 7% of high school students report making a suicide attempt
- Over 14% of high school students report suicidal thoughts
- Suicide is often linked with drug and alcohol use
Well this is astounding. We hear little of teen suicide unless it is the result of some big tweet, bling, beep, blip, “like” or whatever other social media served as the conduit for a cyber bully to cause such a tragedy.
Regular, normal, real teens are deciding that life is too much for me to keep on living and they make an attempt, either calling for help, or that results in death, to check-out of life! Why?
Teenagers are in no way as big and bad as they believe they are. There is an old saying that states, “the word ‘sence’ has no place in the word ‘adolescence'” and this is true.
Teens are struggling very hard to fit-in, impress, and be different while being like everyone else, all the while fighting raging hormones, parents, teachers, and responsibilities!
Think this is fun?
Think back. Where is the safety net that they need to succeed? Where was yours? Demands are high and huge! That’s the norm though; what about our teens who are left out in the breeze to fend for themselves? Who are they?
They are the teens who have to care for younger siblings, take parental-matters into their own hands because mom and/or dad are working 18 hours a day to keep junior well-fed in the “McMansion” they purchased, making sure Daddy is not driving today because he drank a fifth of vodka this morning; all the while trying to be cool and maintain their social status among peers.
Peers who appear to have all they need to be normal, yet never knowing for sure if they do.
However, outside impressions are what teens believe because their minds and basis for reality are still under construction. So if their neighbor appears to have it all in their minds, they do, regardless of Betty Neighbor’s true reality.
Then there are the teens who are targeted online for what they look like, mistakes they may have made (sexually, personally, socially) and are lambasted constantly by their peers to the point of believing they have lost all control over their well-being, and want to die! The “only way out.”
These are not teenage growing pains by any means. And all attempts or intents must be taken seriously by parents, teachers, counselors, friends, relatives or anyone who hears them from a teen.
Also, teens may self-harm in order to gain a false sense of control over what they feel powerless over.
Cutting! Parents should be aware of any and all signs of self-harm as they can escalate to the point of suicide as well.
Parents, watch for the warning signs! Is your teen showing signs of isolation? Self-hate? Not eating? Sleeping too much or too little? Extreme sadness or loneliness?
Conversely, are they demonstrating signs of extreme aggressiveness? Talking or writing about death, pain, dying, or destruction? Do they seem different, withdrawn, or unable to concentrate? These can all be warning signs to heed that may save your child’s life! This epidemic is relevant for all children, not just the unfortunate.
Take for example the recent suicide attempt by Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris Jackson.
Who was watching? Paris attempted suicide after a horrid year of cyber bullying (from her private school mates) and the up-coming civil trial regarding her father’s promotion company which she did not want to testify in. She is 15 years old, has all the money and resources in the world, but she is a 15 year old girl.
She too, is trying her best to fit in, and struggling with what every other teenager struggles with emotionally and physically. No fault of hers that her dad was “The King of Pop” at all! Whether or not she meant it is irrelevant, as it is with any teen. What is it they are trying to say? What do they want?
Help. Parenting. Acceptance. Guidance. Confidence.
Before any child turns to drugs, alcohol, sex, self-mutilation, or, ultimately, suicide, watch for the signs and help them. Even if they don’t want it, need it, whatever, do it! Don’t be left asking yourself, “What could I have done?”
Do it; that is your job and moral responsibility as a parent. Get them to a therapist and open all lines of communication with your kids. Be there for them, don’t ever assume everything’s okay, and do your homework while they do theirs!