Statistics, Risk factors and Prevention
Individuals who intentionally end their lives are committing suicide. Adolescence is the stage between childhood and adulthood where individuals tend to have more questions and confusions in life. The stage of development for adolescents is characterized by strong feelings of confusion, fear of uncertainty, self-doubt, stress and social pressures (Byrne, 2000).
Adolescent suicide is committed by young people who experience problems and see death as the only way to be free. Adolescent suicide continues to be a serious problem in the society. It is the third leading cause of death for youth ages thirteen to nineteen (Byrne, 2000).
Reasons for the Escalation of Suicidal Rates
Suicide rates increased more than 200 percent since the 1980’s. It is responsible for death among individuals ages 15 to 19. One cause of suicide can be attributed to depression and other emotional problems. Recent studies revealed that more than 20 percent of adolescents in the world are suffering from emotional problems.
In addition, one-third of the adolescent population who are being treated in psychiatric clinics have been diagnosed with depression (Naik, 2002). Another reason why suicide rates have been escalating is presented in the study conducted by Krug and his associates.
According to their research, a single adolescent suicide will affect at least six other people. If it happens in a school or community, the impact is much greater (Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi, Lozano, 2004). Suicide rates also continue to increase because of parents who neglect their children who are in this stage.
Thus, lack of guidance and support from adults is also one of the contributing factors that lead to suicidal attempts by adolescents as they suffer from great confusion and anxiety brought by social pressures (Grossman, 2005).
Nonetheless, suicide affects everyone. However, there are people who are at greater risk than others. For instance, men are 4 times more likely than women to die through suicide, although there are three times more women than men who report that they attempted to commit suicide (Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi, Lozano, 2004).
It was also discovered in other studies the usual difference in the method used in committing suicide of boys and girls. While girls attempt to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting their wrist, boys resort to more lethal methods such as using firearms, jumping from heights or hanging their necks (Grossman, 2005).
Signs and Symptoms of Adolescent Suicide
Suicide may appear as a solution to adolescents’ feeling of uncertainty brought by family divorce, the existence of new family member, higher expectations of parents and their quest for self identification. The complexity of adolescent suicide should be the concern of every parent and adult.
Hence, early detection of signs of suicidal tendency is very important. The adolescent who are contemplating on committing suicide usually show the following symptoms:
changes in [their] eating and sleeping habits, withdrawal from usual activities and from friends and peer groups, certain violent actions and reactions, rebellious behavior, neglect of [their] appearance, marked changes in [their] personality, boredom and declining school performance (McIntire,Angle,Wikoff, Schlicht,1977).
These signs are associated with physical symptoms related to emotions and physical concerns like “headaches, stomach aches, loss of interest in work and activities and intolerance to praises and rewards”(McIntire,Angle,Wikoff, Schlicht,1977).
The warning signs of suicide can also manifest after a stressful event in an adolescent’s life such as break up with a loved one, death of an immediate family member, school failure, and intense family conflict (Hayes, 2000).
Suicidal tendencies come in many forms. There are those who seek attention by giving verbal hints such as “I will no longer be a problem in your family and you won’t see me again”(Dumont, 1999,p. 28).
Another example of a suicide attempt is by giving away most of his treasured possessions, while there are those who show sudden extreme cheerfulness after a long period of depressive moods. Others will have bizarre thoughts and will inform the adults and parents that they wish to end their lives. It is a reality that most people are not comfortable talking about death.
When the different signs and symptoms of suicidal attempts are present, these should not be ignored. Learning the early warning signs and symptoms of suicides of adolescents can be of great help to prevent it.
Risk factors of Adolescent Suicide
Risk factors for adolescent suicide include the following: “history of suicidal attempts, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, mental disorder, stressful situations and exposure to peers who committed suicide. Sexual abuse and lack of communication with parents are also major factors in adolescent suicide.
Adolescents who have a history of suicidal attempts is one of the factors that increase the likelihood of committing suicide. Adolescents who have committed suicide previously are in dangerous of doing it again to end their suffering (McIntire,Angle,Wikoff, Schlicht,1977).
Drugs and alcohol are also contributing factors that lead to suicide of adolescents. Some adolescents try to drown themselves in alcohol or take drugs to relieve themselves of depression without knowing that some of these components are depressants and will result to self-injurious behavior (Frances, Franklin, Flavin, 1987).
Some adolescents can only express their resentments when they are drunk and it is the only time that they are eased from the pains and disappointment in life.
Other factors that increase the risk of suicide among adolescents are prevailing psychological disorder like depressive-manic personality, bipolar disorder, and feeling of distress, hopelessness and worthlessness. One good example of adolescent’s depression is the repeated failure at school and the overwhelming constant fighting of parents at home which isolate him/her from his/her peers (Wallenstein, 2000).
Depression among youth can also be traced from his genetic component, sufferings from physical or sexual abuse, lack of family and network support and hostile school and community environment (Wallenstein, 2000).
In addition, studies also show that girls, who are more emotional than boys, are greatly affected by friendships and would more likely develop suicidal tendencies due to depression brought by failed relationships (Wallenstein, 2000).
The exposure of adolescents to other adolescents who died of suicide is also a risk factor. They are more likely to kill themselves based on recent suicide event which they read, heard or witnessed (Hayes, 2000).
Finally, accessibility to tools that can be used to commit suicide, such as firearms for boys and pills for girls, is one of the risk factors of adolescent suicide. The suicidal tendencies can dramatically increase when adolescents discover or learn that there are firearms at home.
Any firearms confined at home should be stored and locked in a secluded area where adolescents can’t reach (Grossman, 2005).
Preventing Adolescent Suicide
The adolescent who is unbearably unhappy that he would commit suicide is very painful for parents and adults to understand. The parents cannot afford that their child would commit suicide. If only they could do something to prevent the act ahead of time, they will not bear feelings of grief, guilt and confusion (Wallenstein, 2000).
Thus, it is important that everyone has awareness on the risk of suicide and its tragic aftermath. A primary prevention may prevent further suicides in adolescence.
The depression and suicidal feelings can be prevented and treated if the parents, adults and other people around him will be able to recognize their resentment. Learning to watch and listen to adolescents who seem depressed due to low school grade performance or a fight with his close friend should be seriously taken into consideration (Greenberg, 2001).
Parents and adults need to fully understand the adolescent’s pressure on his academic performance and why there is a need to act responsibly. It is necessary for parents to realize that aside from their expectations for their child to excel in their academics, adolescence is the stage where parents have to anticipate for the awakening of their child’s sexual feelings, the search for self-identity, and the need for independence (Dumont, 1999).
It is of great significance that parents ask their child if he or she is suffering and experiencing problem in school and at home. It is also crucial for adolescents to feel that there are people who care for them. These people need to reassure the young ones that they are willing to listen and talk about their problems (Greenberg, 2001).
Thus, keeping an open line of communication is very important to let the adolescent feel that someone is there to care and concerns on his current situation. Adults and parents’ openness and honest communication with adolescents can help suicide attempt.
There are circumstances when adolescents do not feel comfortable expressing their dilemma to immediate family members. Hence, a person that will not judge them for their faults such as a relative, religious leader, coach, or school guidance counselor can be a confidante in the place of their parents (Greenberg, 2001).
There are helpful strategies to avoid adolescent suicides. One is to talk the act to kill him or her in an open manner. Another is to increase the adolescent’s awareness that there are accessible hotline telephone numbers in terms of crisis.
Acting as youth role models and by using television, films and other media as point of discussion for effective ways of dealing with depression are also useful ways to prevent suicidal tendencies It will also be of great help if adolescents will have a chance to share their problems with their friends or other people their age who can give beneficial advice and support (Wallenstein, 2000).
Different ways of helping the adolescent is available from a number of sources like parents themselves, school councilors, teachers, family doctors, clergy men, psychotherapist, mental health care, and social agency. Adolescents with adequate support from parents, peer groups, network of friends, religious affiliations and other extracurricular activities will have an outlet in dealing with day-to-day frustrations and stress.
Most of them will not realize the presence of these people and the feeling of isolation from friend and family and will increased their possibility of committing suicide. Medicines and therapy are also means to aid the adolescents disregard suicidal thoughts brought by substance abuse and mental illness (Dumont, 1999).
.The greater time provided to adolescents, the better the parents and adults will understand their children’s current experiences (Wallenstein, 2000). Adolescents usually want to feel their parents’ care by being disciplined, but they also want respect and dignity in the process. The emotional bond between parents and adolescents need not be damaged by miscommunication (Dumont, 1999).
The devastating effects of emotional trauma of attempting to commit suicide by adolescents should be addressed immediately. The immediate action to take is to close the gap between the adolescent’s limited ability to understand the pros and cons of suicide act and the reality of it.
While confused, the adolescent needs to be surrounded with support, comfort and love. The establishment of trust among adolescents during critical stage of their life will prevent their attempt for suicide.
A suicide attempt is a cry for help by adolescents to help them ease the pain of emotional scars. Adolescent suicide is a complex stage that has a direct impact not only on the victim itself but for the family and entire society and knowing the risks, signs and symptoms and preventions could prevent further suicides.
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Blanchard, K. (2000). Great ideas, training and development. University of Minnesota, 24-