Taking a hard look at teen suicide

Published 12:25 pm Friday, September 23, 2011


We recently marked National Suicide Prevention Week. I know this because as a child therapist I am often receiving information regarding mental health issues, especially when the issue could involve children. So, for this reason, I did some research of my own to see how much I actually knew about the subject. I want to share some facts I found and insights of my own. Suicide is something that most do not want to talk about or think about and often feel that that it won’t happen within their own family. There are way too many statistics and facts out there to list them all but the ones which I thought were the most alarming was that suicide is the third leading cause of death among the ages of 15 – 24. Accidents are the No. 1 cause and homicide is the No. 2 cause but not by much more than suicide.

Among students, 30 percent of those who have said they are being bullied have also reported depression, and out of those, 11 percent have thought about suicide or made attempts. What about those who are doing the bullying? Nineteen percent of those bullying others reported depression and 8 percent out of those have thought about or made attempts of suicide. Suicide affects all ages, genders, races and religions all over the world. Since I work with children I also found information showing that students who have good self esteem, good social skills, problem solving skills and supportive friends and family are at a lower risk for suicide than those who do not possess such skills. While it is not a total prevention, it was worthy of noting.

A “suicide survivor” is the family and friends of those who are impacted by the death of a loved one by suicide. These are often the children, spouses and families of the deceased and there are, on an average, six survivors per death. For those who are left it is important for them to know that though they never stop missing their loved one and are forever changed, they do survive. But they may never stop asking the question “why” and often need the help of a support group or counseling to help overcome the grief.

Do you think you or someone you know may be thinking of suicide? Many times there are warning signs. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide. The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk.

• Talking about wanting to die

• Looking for a way to kill oneself

• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose

• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

• Talking about being a burden to others

• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs

• Sleeping too little or too much

• Withdrawing or feeling isolated

• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

• Displaying extreme mood swings

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

• Do not leave the person alone

• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt

• Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)

• Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

Contact community mental health agency, a school counselor or psychologist, a suicide prevention/crisis intervention center, a private therapist, a family physician or a religious/spiritual leader for help.

Don’t think it can’t happen within your own family or friends. No one is immune. The other reason I wanted to know more is because I have lost a family member to suicide.

Lisa Patterson is a licensed counselor in Alabama & Florida, Nationally Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist. She may be contacted at 334.222.7094.