Teenage suicide in the United States
Teenage suicide in the United States remains comparatively high in 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 those aged 15 to 24. By comparison, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death for all those age 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 actually 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 are 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, non fatal injuries, which left an estimated $10.4 billion in combined medical and work loss costs.
Suicide differs through 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 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 an 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.
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 institutionalised homophobia in some cases, including the use of LGB people as a political wedge issue like in the contemporary efforts to halt legalising 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 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 of 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 to 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 is 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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Suicide prevention in young adults aged 15-24 is absolutely crucial in the United States. There are a handful of surprisingly simple solutions to the Unites State's need for suicide prevention. The largest obstacle that young Americans face when trying to tackle the idea of depression and suicide is the social stigma and shame placed upon having either of these issues. If we could integrate some form of education on how to prevent suicide and what to do if you are dealing with depression and who you can reach out to for help, we would find that the rate of suicide goes down by 4%. The suicide prevention education needs to go a step beyond educating students to be fully functional. School staff, school resource officers, as well as social workers need to be educated in a similar fashion. The aforementioned needs to be educated on how to treat a student who is showing signs of depression or suicide, how to detect a student dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts or tendencies, as well as where to send them for better care and treatment if they feel they cannot do a sufficient enough job in preventing the loss of the young adult. Young adults and the people surrounding them need to be able to better understand what suicide is, why it happens, and how to stop it if we want the excessive number of young adult suicides to decrease.
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.
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 had no effect. Satcher's claim, while it may be correct, was not based on a consensus among public health professionals.
Threats of suicide
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention advocates taking suicide threats seriously. Seventy-five percent of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.
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
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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. Site includes links to all kinds of helpful info, and stories of other kids who have dealt with similar issues.
- ULifeline Suicide Prevention - 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) 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