By MS Broudy

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Girls attempt suicide more than boys, but boys are two to three times more likely to die as a result, due to their use of more lethal means.  It is debatable whether or not teen suicide has reached epidemic proportions.  The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that the overall death rate due to suicide for people aged 10–19 fell sharply from 1999–2007 and then rose by 56 percent between 2007 and 2016.  Despite the recent increase, the yearly number of deaths is actually lower than it was 20 years ago.  A study appearing in Clinical Psychological Science has linked the recent surge in adolescent suicidality to the expanded use of social media and screen time.  Robert Olson, of the Center for Suicide Prevention, believes rates have not yet reached “epidemic” numbers but acknowledges that signs of suicidal behavior are increasing at an alarming rate. 

What Is Being Done To Combat Teen Suicide?

Suicide prevention starts with education and early detection.  Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Jason Flatt Act, which mandates suicide prevention training for school personnel.  However, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention notes that less than half of all states require or encourage suicide prevention policies and programming for students.  The United States recognizes September as suicide prevention month, bringing needed attention to the issue.

What Should You Do If You Suspect A Teen Is Suicidal?

The best way to prevent teen suicidal behavior is for parents to establish an open dialogue with their children.  Caretakers are more likely to see warning signs if they have a close relationship with their teenagers.  Suicidal thoughts and behavior need to be addressed directly and without judgment.  In addition to frank discussion, parents should seek professional help.  A school counselor or pediatrician can point you toward the appropriate therapeutic resources.  If you feel a teenager is in immediate danger, contact 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room.  The National Suicide Prevention Hotline  (1-800-273-8255) is another excellent resource.  Always take the threat of suicide seriously.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

What Are The Warning Signs of Suicidality?

The Mayo Clinic lists the following as indicators of suicidal behavior in adolescents:

  • Writing or talking about suicide
  • Mood swings
  • Hopeless feelings
  • Significant changes of behavior, including sleeping patterns, substance abuse and new friends
  • Social withdrawal
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Giving away belongings

Suicidal thoughts and behavior need to be addressed directly and without judgment.  In addition to frank discussion, parents should seek professional help.

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