Anthony Bourdain. Kate Spade. Robin Williams. We know the tragic stories of their suicides. Countless other adults, mostly unknown, have succumbed to this tragedy, as well.

Let’s not forget teens who take their own lives, either. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the suicide rate for young adults is up—significantly. A study of pediatric hospitals released in May 2017 found admissions of patients ages 5 to 17 for suicidal thoughts and actions more than doubled from 2008 to 2015. The group at highest risk for suicide are white males between 14 and 21.

Nearly 5,000 teenagers commit suicide each year. That’s almost 14 suicides per day.

If you’re looking for help with depression or even suicidal thoughts, a professional counselor can help.

How Could This Happen?

If you’re scratching your head as to why this is possible in an age of seemingly increased mental health awareness and overall happiness with life, you’re not alone. While today’s teens have everything they could want—things their parents could never have dreamed of, to make life easier and more fun—thingsdon’t equal happiness. As much as we’d like to believe that wealth is everywhere in our country, it isn’t. Poverty persists in many areas despite a near-record-low unemployment rate—limiting access to health care and accentuating the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

As for awareness of mental health issues, spotty mental health screening is still norm. Untreated mental health conditions are among the leading causes of suicide.

Then there’s the host of well-documented and hard to solve societal issues, including opioid-addicted parents who can barely take care of themselves and are in little position to focus on the needs of their kids. Add to these concerns bullying, family issue, and exposure to violence.

Heavy social media use is also a risk factor for conditions like depression, leading to a sense of hopelessness and despair.

Social Media Use Is Partly to Blame

Heavy social media use is also a risk factor for conditions like depression, leading to a sense of hopelessness and despair. While some adults can tune out the constant scroll of depressing social media posts, it is the rare teen who even tries. 

A recent post in one Baltimore teen’s Facebook feed: “Alright, so I will literally pay anyone to shoot me in the head. Who wants a go at it? Please.” 

She included a smiley face emoji. 

Teens regularly post about hating their lives and wanting to kill themselves, so much in fact that it’s almost like a competitive “race to the bottom.” On one hand social media provides a place to vent and get advice, but on the other hand, if everyone is commiserating over everyone, is it really helpful?

Based on the development of the brain, this group is more inclined to risky behavior, to decide in that moment.

Lack of Face to Face Is a Problem

Because teens are interacting in a way that isn’t face to face, there’s less of a connection, so it’s hard to understand what, if anything, to say when someone says they want to die. Teens say they will see a post about depression or suicide ideation and sometimes just pass it off as relatable dark humor. Based on the development of the brain, this group is more inclined to risky behavior, to decide in that moment.

That’s very different from how even a depressed adult might weigh the downsides of a decision like suicide, especially how it will likely affect those left behind. And sometimes life is so traumatic, suicide just seems like the best option for a young person—especially because the stigma or fear of asking for help still exists.

People often think that teens can’t get depressed or anxious, but they can.  People also often think that it is ‘just normal teen angst. While the teen brain is still developing, teens do struggle with genuine mental illnesses and they need to be properly evaluated and treated, experts said.

Most importantly, there needs to be more encouragement for people to seek medical care. Uncharacteristic changes in behavior, fluctuations in academic performance and withdrawal are all signs something bigger could be occurring.

Let’s Talk About Suicide—Please

These same experts also indicate—adamantly—that we as a society need to make it okay to talk about things that are causing emotional pain and let people know that it is real, but it can get better. We should be concerned, because dying by suicide shouldn’t be an option, and young people often feel like it is their only option, according to mental health professionals.

Most importantly, there needs to be more encouragement for people to seek medical care. Uncharacteristic changes in behavior, fluctuations in academic performance and withdrawal are all signs something bigger could be occurring. We need to change perceptions to help teens learn it is okay to ask for and get help.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
Email

If you’re looking for help with depression or even suicidal thoughts, a professional counselor can help.

Further Reading:

“Teen Depression and Suicide: Effective Prevention and Intervention Strategies” http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/83621560/teen-depression-suicide-effective-prevention-intervention-strategies

The Power to Prevent Suicide: A Guide for Teens Helping Teens https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/812537.The_Power_to_Prevent_Suicide

Unhingedhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17676812-unhinged

National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide

https://www.suicidology.org/ncpys

References

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide Statistics.” (2018). Retrieved from https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/

Chowdhry, A. “Research Links Heavy Facebook And Social Media Usage to Depression” April 30, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2016/04/30/study-links-heavy-facebook-and-social-media-usage-to-depression/#6cb9d08f4b53

Holmes, L. “Suicide Rates for Teen Boys and Girls Are Climbing” HUFFPOST. August 4, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/suicide-rates-teen-girls_us_59848b64e4b0cb15b1be13f4

 O’Donnell, J. & Saker, A. “Teen suicide is soaring. Do spotty mental health and addiction treatment share blame?” USA Today,March 19, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/03/19/teen-suicide-soaring-do-spotty-mental-health-and-addiction-treatment-share-blame/428148002/

You may also like

Leave a comment