Teenage suicide in the United States
The suicide rate in the United States remains comparatively high for the 15 to 24 age group with 5,079 suicides in this age range in 2014, making it the second leading cause of death for that age range. By comparison, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for all those aged 10 and over, with 33,289 suicides for all US citizens in 2006.
In the United States, for the year 2005, the suicide rate for both males and females age 24 and below was lower than the rate for ages 25 and up.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is considered the second leading cause of death among college students, the second leading cause of death for people ages 25–34, and the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65. In 2015, the CDC also stated that an estimated 9.3 million adults, which is roughly 4% of the United States population, had suicidal thoughts in one year alone. 1.3 million adults 18 and older attempted suicide in one year, with 1.1 million making plans to commit suicide. Looking at younger teenagers, suicide is the third leading cause of death of individuals aged from 10 to 14. Males and females are known to have different suicidal tendencies. For example, males take their lives almost four times the rate females do. Males also commit approximately 77.9% of all suicides, however, the female population is more likely to have thoughts of suicide than males. Males more commonly use a firearm to commit suicide, while females commonly use a form of poison. College students aged 18–22 are less likely to attempt suicide than teenagers. The most common the suicide method among the female aged 15 to 24 is suffocation according to Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
A recent study by the CDC with the help of Johns Hopkins University, Harvard, and Boston Children's Hospital has revealed that suicide rates dropping in certain states has been linked to the legalization of same sex marriage in those same states. Suicide rates as a whole fell about 7% but the rates among specifically gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers fell at a rate of 14%. In 2013, an estimated 494,169 people were treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted, nonfatal injuries, which left an estimated $10.4 billion in combined medical and work loss costs.
Suicide differs through the race and ethnic backgrounds. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention ranked suicide as the 8th leading cause for American Indians/Alaska Natives. Hispanic students in grades 9–12 have the following percentages: attempting suicide (18.9%), having made a plan about how they would attempt suicide (15.7%), having attempted suicide (11.3%), and having made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that required medical attention (4.1%). These percentages are consistently higher than white and black students.
Potential signs include threatening the well-being of oneself and others through physical violence. Other potentially serious threats could include a shared willingness to run away from home, as well as the damaging of property. Individuals may also give away most to all personal belongings, reference suicide or suicidal thought on social media, or various other online platforms, increase their use of drugs or alcohol, sleep too little or too much, or may display extreme mood swings. Parents witnessing such threats are recommended to immediately speak with their child and seek immediate mental health evaluation if further threats are made.
In the U.S, male adolescents commit suicide at a rate five times greater than that of female adolescents, although suicide attempts by females are three times as frequent as those by males. A possible reason for this is the method of attempted suicide for males is typically that of firearm use, with a 78–90% chance of fatality. Females are more likely to try a different method, such as ingesting poison. Females have more parasuicides. This includes using different methods, such as drug overdose, which are usually less effective.
Suicide rates vary for different ethnic groups due to cultural differences. In 1998, suicides among European Americans accounted for 84% of all youth suicides, 61% male and 23% female. However, the suicide rate for Native Americans was 19.3 per 100,000, much higher than the overall rate (8.5 per 100,000). The suicide rate for African Americans has increased more than twofold since 1981. A national survey of high school students conducted in 1999 reported that Hispanic students are twice as likely to report attempted suicide than white students.
On September 6, 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suicide rate in American adolescents (especially boys, 10 to 24 years old) increased 8% (2003 to 2004), the largest jump in 15 years. Specifically, in 2004 there were 4,599 suicides in Americans ages 10 to 24, up from 4,232 in 2003, for a rate of 7.32 per 100,000 people that age. Before, the rate dropped to 6.78 per 100,000 in 2003 from 9.48 per 100,000 in 1990. Some psychiatrists argue that the increase is due to the decline in prescriptions of antidepressant drugs like Prozac to young people since 2003, leaving more cases of serious depression untreated. In a December 2006 study, The American Journal of Psychiatry said that a decrease in antidepressant prescriptions to minors of just a few percentage points coincided with a 14 percent increase in suicides in the United States; in the Netherlands, the suicide rate was 50% up, upon prescription drop. Despite the language of the study, however, the results appear to have been directly conflicted by the actual suicide rates in subsequent years. Youth suicide declined consistently every year from 2005 to 2007, and in 2007 reached a record low, even as the suicide rate for other groups increased.
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Researchers have found that suicide among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth is comparatively higher than among the general population. LGB teens and young adults have one of the highest rates of suicide attempts. According to some groups, this is linked to heterocentric cultures and institutionalized homophobia in some cases, including the use of LGB people as a political wedge issue like in the contemporary efforts to halt legalizing same-sex marriages. Depression and drug use among LGB people have both been shown to increase significantly after new laws that discriminate against gay people are passed. Bullying of LGB youth has been shown to be a contributing factor in many suicides, even if not all of the attacks have been specifically addressing sexuality or gender.
Causes in teenage suicide
Teenage suicide is not caused by any one factor, but likely by a combination of them. Depression can play a massive role in teenage suicide. Some contributing factors include:
- Eating disorders
- Drug abuse
- Sexual abuse/rape
- Divorce of parents
- Household financial problems
- Being bullied
- Social rejection
- Relationship breakup
- Domestic violence or abuse
- Academic failure in school and grade retention
- Feelings of being misunderstood
- Extreme mood swings
- Loss of a loved one
- Mental disorders such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, and schizophrenia.
Eating disorders have the highest correlation with a suicide rate of any mental illness, most commonly affecting teenagers (since data is correlational it is not possible to say with that A causes B, vice versa it may be possible a third variable is causing both, see Correlation and dependence). Teenagers with Eating Disorders' suicide risk is about 15%. Perceived lack of parental interest is also a major factor in teenage suicide. According to one study, 90% of suicidal teenagers believed their families did not understand them.
Depression is the most common cause of suicide. About 75% of those individuals who commit suicide are depressed. Depression is caused by a number of factors, from chemical imbalances to psychological make-up to environmental influences.
There is a correlation between the use of social media and the increase in mental illness and teen suicide. Recent studies are showing that there is a link between using social media platforms and depression and anxiety. A recent national survey of 1787 young adults looked at the use of 11 different social media platforms. The survey showed that the teens that used between 7 and 11 platforms were three times at risk for depression or anxiety. Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide. Another problem with teens and social media is cyberbullying. When teens are on social media that can say whatever they want about anybody and they do not feel there are any repercussions for their actions. They do not have to look their victims in the eyes and see the hurt and torment they are causing. The link between cyberbullying and teen suicide is one reason that people are trying to criminalize cyberbullying. In 2011 the US Center for Disease Control showed that 13.7% of teens that reported being cyberbullied had attempted suicide.
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Johnson and Coyne-Beasley have argued that limiting young people's access to lethal means, such as firearms, has reduced means-specific suicide rates.(However, they found that "[m]inimum purchase-age and possession-age laws were not associated with statistically significant reductions in suicide rates among youth aged 14 through 20 years".) A 2004 study based on suicides between 1976 and 2001 found an 8.3% reduction in suicides by 14- to 17-year-olds with the implementation of state child access prevention (CAP) laws. Child access prevention laws were put in place with the intention to reduce gun related deaths of those under the age of 17. CAP laws first focus is on negligent storage of firearms to encourage gun owners to safely store weapons and limit accessibility. CAP laws differ from state to state but can carry felony charges if there is an incident of negligent storage. The second focus is on the reckless provision of firearms which refers to children being given guns then having an accident. These laws were a response to high volumes of children committing suicide, crimes, and accidents with the highest number of deaths in 1993. The highest rate per 100,000 was 4.87 children killed in firearm related incidents in 1993. The effects of these laws brought down firearm related incidents to 1.87 per 100,000 by 2009 which was a reduction from over 3000 deaths to 1400.
Suicide awareness programs
School-based youth suicide awareness programs have been developed to increase high-school students' awareness of the problem, provide knowledge about the behavioral characteristics of teens at risk (i.e., screening lists), and describe available treatment or counseling resources. However, the American Surgeon General David Satcher warned in 1999 that "indiscriminate suicide awareness efforts and overly inclusive screening lists may promote suicide as a possible solution to ordinary distress or suggest that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are normal responses to stress." The 1991 study Satcher cited (reference 45 in the report) for this claim, however, surveyed only two schools over 18 months, and the study's authors concluded that the suicide awareness program did not affect. Satcher's claim, while it may be correct, was not based on a consensus among public health professionals. The Canadian journal of public health references 9 studies being done over the effects of awareness programs on teenagers. These studies were mainly conducted in the US showing 5 of them having positive effects on teenagers making them more likely to seek help. However, there was 1 study that had a negative impact making teenagers aware that suicide was a possible option rather than dealing with their problems. This study also found that males are more likely to suggest suicide as a solution rather than females.
Threats of suicide
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention advocates taking suicide threats seriously. Seventy-five percent of all suicides are of people who have given some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.SAVE or the Suicide voices of education foundation states that threats of suicide are the main warning factors for someone taking their own life. Warning factors include planning a suicide, talking about a committing suicide, or looking for weapons to harm themselves. These signs can mean that a person is in need of immediate attention from health officials or a suicide prevention organization. People who are at risk for suicide maybe resistant to admit they have suicidal intentions because of the stigma that comes with mental illness. This is another obstacle of suicide prevention because people don’t want to be labeled by their mental illness. Ways to help someone who is making threats is recommending they talk to their family, religious leaders, clinical professionals, and suicide prevention organizations.
SAVE refers to people who have been affected by suicide whether a friend or family member as suicide survivors. Suicide begets suicide because the loss of a loved one can place that person at risk to take their own life. A 1993 study showed that suicide survivors had increased thoughts of suicide and other psychological problems such as PTSD. Clusters of suicides are often found in communities because it is a mental contagion that can influence others to commit the same act. To prevent clusters, the CDC created guidelines to intervene with those effected by these incidents. The people considered to have had a “Close” relationship with the victim should be given counseling as soon as possible and then be referred to any additional treatment if needed. The section below list treatments for at people at Risk.
A common treatment for a young, suicidal patient is a combination of drug-based treatment (e.g. imipramine or fluoxetine) with a 'talking-based' therapy, such as referral to a cognitive behaviour therapist. This kind of therapy concentrates on modifying self-destructive and irrational thought processes. In a crisis situation professional help can be sought, either at hospital or a walk-in clinic. There are also several telephone help numbers for help on teenage suicide, depending on one's location (country/state). In the US, 1-800-SUICIDE will connect to the nearest support hotline. Sometimes emergency services can be contacted.
- Assisted suicide in the United States
- National Suicide Prevention Week
- Suicide in the United States
- Suicide among LGBT youth
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- The Honouring Life Network - Suicide prevention information and resources for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth in Canada. Also, includes statistics, fact sheets, and forum for youth workers.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Stamp Out Suicide Has a resources page with contacts, some especially for teenagers and young people in the UK and Ireland.
- Parenting Teens Big database of links for help institutions.
- Kids in Trouble Help Page The Kids in Trouble Help Page has helped many teens by being a user-friendly place where kids and teens can find the help they need in all kinds of situations including suicide, child abuse, depression, and runaways. The site includes links to all kinds of helpful info and stories of other kids who have dealt with similar issues.
- ULifeline Suicide Prevention - the section about suicide on ULifeline, a mental health resource for college students.
- Second Wind Fund - a teenage suicide prevention fund.
- The Trevor Helpline: 1 866 - 4U TREVOR - nationwide (US) 24-hour, free, confidential suicide helpline for gay and questioning teenagers, United States. See The Trevor Project.
- Research from the UK government into the suicide rate in the UK.
- Rachel's Challenge - a school presentation to stop teen suicide and school violence
- UK official statistics for suicide.
- National Hopeline Network
- Mind (National Association for Mental Health) the UK
- Suicide prevention resources relating to Teens
- Teen suicide U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2006) via WebMD. Retrieved on September 3, 2008