Teenage suicide is a tragic and complicated issue that doesn’t easily answer the question, “Why?” Teen suicidal behavior can be traced to many reasons, including social, economic, family and individual risk factors, according to Diana Mahoney, writing for “Entrepreneur” magazine. The one bright spot to hold onto is that suicide risk diminishes when a teenager feels a connection to a parent or other caregiver, according to results of a 2000 study published in the journal, “Pediatrics.”
The “Pediatrics” study identified several risk factors that usually accompany teen suicide. They are previous suicide attempts, use of drugs or alcohol, problems in school and a history of being a victim or a bully. Other risk factors identified by KidsHealth are feelings of distress and hopelessness, a family history of depression or suicide, sexual or physical abuse and dealing with homosexuality in an unsupportive or hostile environment. Mental illness is also a risk factor, especially depression and bipolar disorder. Of the people who die by suicide, 95 percent of them had a mental disorder, according to KidsHealth. Adolescents should have a screening for mental illness as well as the other risk factors, according to Mahoney. Screening, however, is only a first step. If the screening identifies risks, you must deal with the problems. For example, a counselor can teach your teen how to recognize signs of depression and suicide and what to do if those signs happen.
A teen who is contemplating suicide may talk about death or suicide a great deal, pull away from friends and family, lose the desire to participate in activities, have trouble concentrating, have trouble sleeping, change eating habits and exhibit self-destructive behavior, such as driving recklessly. You should be aware of these behaviors.
Suicide increases dramatically if your teen has access to guns, according to KidsHealth. Almost 60 percent of suicides are by firearms. If you do have guns, keep them locked and unloaded. You should store ammunition in a separate place from where you keep your guns, locked up as well. Don’t keep the keys for the guns and ammo where you keep your car and house keys. You have to hide them.
Girls Versus Boys
Boy and girls differ in their suicide behaviors. Girls attempt it more, but boys are more likely to die, according to KidsHealth. Girls tend to try overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves. Boys tend to try using a gun, hanging or jumping.
Make sure your teen feels he has a support group and does not feel isolated. The support group could be you, your family, neighbors, friends, religious groups or extracurricular activity groups. Keep the lines of communication open. If you suspect your teen is contemplating suicide, ask him. You can tell him what you have noticed and just come right out and ask. If your teen tells you that he has been thinking about suicide, get a referral from your doctor immediately. In a crisis, you can take your teen to the hospital emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation.