Teenage suicide in the United States
Teenage suicide in the United States remains comparatively high in the 15 to 24 age group with 10,000 suicides in this age range in 2004, making it the third 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.
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 Caucasian 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 - 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, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) youth is comparatively higher than among the general population. LGBT 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 LGBT people as a political wedge issue like in the contemporary efforts to halt legalising same-sex marriages. Depression and drug use among LGBT people have both been shown to increase significantly after new laws that discriminate against gay people are passed. Bullying of LGBT 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 vaiable 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.
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Promoting overall mental health among adolescents is key to reducing possible suicidal thoughts. Ideally, prevention addresses all levels of influence: individual, relationship, community, and societal. Effective prevention strategies are needed to promote awareness of suicide and encourage a commitment to social change.
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 " Minimum 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
- Suicide in the United States
- Suicide among LGBT youth
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- Youth Suicide Fact Sheet, 1 January 2005, retrieved 2 May 2006.
- New York Times, Suicide Rises in Youth; Antidepressant Debate Looms
- Study: Tolerance Can Lower Gay Kids' Suicide Risk, Joseph Shapiro, All Things Considered, National Public Radio, December 29, 2008. 
- National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Tackles LGBT Suicide, April 26, 2012, Kellan Baker and Josh Garcia. 
- "The Impact of Institutional Discrimination on Psychiatric Disorders in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: A Prospective Study by Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, MS, MPhil, Katie A. McLaughlin, PhD, Katherine M. Keyes, MPH and Deborah S. Hasin, PhD". Ajph.aphapublications.org. 2010-01-14. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.168815. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
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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