Teen Suicide: A Growing Risk
Youth suicide in the United States has surged to the highest level in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults.
From the moment I met Frances Holk-Jones, I could see the sorrow and passion she had from losing her daughter, Jennifer Claire Moore, who was a mere 16 years old, to suicide. After working with the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation for the past several years, I also had the opportunity to speak to Jennifer’s brother Grayson, who shared with me what it was like to not only be the first one to see his sister after she took her own life, but how it affected him as a teen. Grayson, who was fourteen at the time, had to cope with the loss of his sister, and then his father three years later.
- Youth suicide in the United States has surged to the highest level in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults.
- In Alabama, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-14 and the third-leading cause of death for ages 15-24. The number one cause was “undeterminable” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- It is thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.
Understanding the Increase
The rise in the rate of teen suicide is due to a combination of many things. An increase in non-traditional family structures and advances in technology mean today’s teens are facing issues that no previous generation has ever seen. While some issues are not exactly new, electronic media has changed or amplified some of the struggles young people face today. Our youth are exposed to on-screen violence, drugs, alcohol, social pressures, academic pressures, and traumatic events like being bullied, or physical and sexual abuse.
Teen Angst or Depression?
Knowing the difference between normal teen angst and depression is key. Teen depression is a serious mental health problem that causes a persistent feeling of sadness, self-neglect, loss of interest in activities, or isolated behavior and will affect how a teenager thinks, feels, and behaves. Suicide warning signs are displayed through talk, behavior, and mood.
Warning signs for teen suicide can include:
- Talk of being a burden to others or talk of having no reason to live
- Increased substance abuse
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Displaying aggression towards others
- Vague comments such as “No one will even care if I don’t show up tomorrow.”
If you are a friend, you will more than likely become aware of these warning signs before a parent or adult. The fact is that when a young person is seeking help, validation, or guidance, they often turn to a peer first and reach out to their parents much later, if at all.
How to Help
Whether you’re a friend, school professional, coach, or parent, no indication or sign should ever be disregarded or seem trivial. Your awareness and directly talking to someone you are concerned about could save a life. Don’t be shy—ask directly if they are thinking of death or contemplating suicide; that direct question just might be the open door they need to say, “Yes, and I wish I did not feel this way,” which opens the door to getting them the help they need.
If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, reach out to the following organizations:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation: 251-971-3633
Source: K-12 Facts.” Snapshot of U.S. Student Achievement, Center for Education Reform, Updated Feb. 2016, www.edreform.com/2012/04/k-12-facts/. Tavernise, Sabrina. “U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Apr. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/health/us-suicide-rate-surges-to-a-30-year-high.html.