Why do Teens Contemplate to Suicide?
As the third largest cause of death between the ages of 15 and 24, the adolescent suicide rate has tripled since 1960. This is the only age group in which an increase has occurred over the last three decades. While there are approximately 10,000 reported teen suicides annually, it is estimated that the number of teen suicides is actually three to four times that number when unreported deaths and “suicide equivalents” are added. The teenage years are a period of turmoil for just about everyone.
You’re learning new social roles, developing new relationships, getting used to the changes in your body, and making decisions about your future. And when you’re looking for answers to problems, it can seem like no one has them. That can make a person feel quite alone. Teenagers experience strong feelings, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, and other fears while growing up. Teenagers commit suicide because there is too much pain in their lives and they can do one of the two things; move from the pain or learn to cope with the pain.
While some teenagers learn to cope with the pain, others attempt suicide. Suicide among young people have increased nationwide in the recent years and it is important that everyone is aware of the major causes, symptoms, and methods of prevention of this self-inflicted death.
To further understand suicide, one must take a look at the different reasons behind the act itself. Suicide is not a genetic disease, but rather a series of events that are very depressing or stressful. Without depression, most people would not attempt to take their own lives. Depression is a vital issue in almost every suicide attempt. The victim feels very depressed and everything seems to be going the wrong way. Depression is not “just sadness.” Depression is a mild form mental illness, which can be permanent or temporary. It can be simple things like the loss of interest in usual activities. The start of what leads a person to suicide does not have anything to do with the person’s present life experiences, but with their early childhood experiences. This is because the view of others, outside family and friends, has no contribution to the pain that causes suicide and depression. Depression can include self-pity, shame, envy, and grandiosity. All of these things play a role in depression one way or another. Depressed people are usually subject to desire and “grandiose ideation.” Grandiosity is best described as when a person starts thinking they are above everyone and everything else. They absurdly exaggerate many things in their lives just for attention it brings them. Envy, another cause of depression, has two aspects. In its primary sense, envy is the experience of pain when a person sees that someone else has something desirable, which he would like. Envy is also the experience of pleasure, when the person who has that desired quality suffers misfortune. Shame, in depression, is usually aimed inward toward the victim, or depressed person. When self-pity, another depression mode, is thought of , it usually brings up the feelings of being sad or angry for mistakes that happened in the past. Depressed adolescents frequently communicate their despair before they act out in this final act of desperation. Teens tend to reflect their dysphoria with action rather than words. For example, they are inclined to withdraw from others, complain of boredom, and have an increasingly difficult time concentrating. School performance tends to suffer and changes in personality may include increased aggression. Depression is like a bad dream, but with help, a person can overcome this “bad dream” and awake.
The biology of the brain, genetics, psychological traits, and social forces all can contribute to suicide. Biological research indicates that suicidal behavior runs in families, suggesting that genetic and biological factors play a role in one’s suicide risk. Among one community of Amish people in Pennsylvania, almost three-quarters of all suicides that occurred over a 100-year period were in just four families. Studies of twins reared apart provide some support for a genetic influence in suicide. People may inherit a genetic predisposition to certain psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and alcoholism that increase the risk of suicide. In addition, an inability to control impulsive and violent behavior have biological roots. Research has found lower than normal levels of substance associated with the brain chemical serotonin in people with impulsive aggressiveness. In the early 1900s, Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud developed some of the first psychological theories of suicide. He emphasized the role of hostility turned against the self. American psychiatrist Karl Menninger elaborated on Freud’s ideas. He suggested that all suicides have three interrelated and unconscious dimensions: revenge/hate (a wish to kill), depression/hopelessness (a wish to die), and guilt (a wish to be killed). An American psychologist considered to be a pioneer in the modern study of suicide, Edwin Schneidman, has described several common characteristics of suicides. These include a sense of unbearable psychological pain, a sense of isolation from others, and the perception that death is the only solution to problems about which one feels hopelessness and helpless. Cognitive theorists, who study how people process information, emphasize the role of inflexible thinking or tunnel vision and an inability to generate solutions to problems. According to psychologists, many suicide attempts are a symbolic cry for help, an effort to reach out and receive attention. Most social scientists believe that a society’s structure and values can influence suicide rates. French sociologist Emile Durkheim argued that suicide rates are related to social integration-that is, the degree to which an individual feels part of a larger group. Durkheim found suicide was more likely when a person lacked social bonds or had relationships disrupted through a sudden change in status, such as unemployment. As one example of the significance of social bonds, suicide rates among adults are lower for married people than for divorced, widowed, or single people. Studies consistently show that although suicidal people do not appear to have greater life stress than others, they lack effective strategies to cope with stress. In addition, they are more likely than others to have had family loss and turmoil, such as the death of a family member, separation or divorce of their parents, or child abuse or neglect. The parents of those who attempt suicide have a greater frequency of mental illness and substance abuse than other parents. However, suicide occurs in all types of families, including those with little apparent turmoil. Suicidal behavior has numerous and complex causes and not just one event triggers this act of self-injury, however it is a combination of events that cause an individual to turn to lethal methods.
Many of the symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of depression. Parents should be aware of the following signs of adolescents who may try to kill themselves. Child and adolescent psychiatrists recommend that if one or more of these signs occurs, parents need to talk to their child about their concerns and seek professional help when the concerns persist. Signs and symptoms include:
Change in eating and sleeping habits.
Withdrawal from friends, and family and regular activities.
Violent actions, rebellious behavior or running away.
Unusual neglect of personal appearance.
Persistent boredom, difficult concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork.
Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
Not tolerating praise or rewards.
Young people who are depressed and suicidal often hide those feelings at home and a school, although they may confide in their friends, often binding them to secrecy. Some of them, especially young teens may not be aware what they are feeling is depression. Depressed teens may fall off dramatically in school performance and have difficulty in concentration. If a child or adolescent says, “I want to kill myself,” one must always take the statement seriously and seek evaluation from a child and adolescent psychiatrist. With support from family and professional treatment, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a healthier path of development.
Because depression precedes most suicides, early recognition of depression and treatment through medication and psychotherapy are important ways of preventing suicide. In general, suicide prevention efforts aim to identify people with the highest risk of suicide and to intervene before these individuals become suicidal. A person who observes the many signs of suicide should ask the individual in question whether he or she is thinking of suicide. If so, the observer should refer the person to a trained mental health professional to reduce the immediate risk of suicide and to treat the problems that led the person to consider suicide. Most suicides can be prevented because the suicidal state of mind is usually temporary. In the United States, mental health professionals established the first major suicide-prevention telephone hotlines in the 1950’s. Counselors or trained volunteers usually staff the hotlines around the clock. The staff members provide a listening ear to those in despair and tell callers where they can go to receive professional help. An increasing number of schools have suicide-prevention programs that trains students, teachers, and school staff to recognize warning signs and tell them where to refer students at risk of suicide. Another prevention method involves restricting access to means of killing oneself. Barriers that prevent people from jumping off bridges, for example, and restrictions on access to firearms have shown some effectiveness in reducing suicides. Sometimes, we treat suicide as a joke or deny it, but if a relative or friend brings it up, one must take it seriously and take some time to talk about it.
Every year more than 35,000 people in America, reportedly die because of suicide. Once again, it is essential that one is aware of the significant causes, symptoms and signs, and prevention methods of suicide. A shocking five million people in America have attempted suicide and failed. There are many signs and reasons people commit and attempt to commit suicide. They are usually in extreme emotional pain. They do not see another way out of their problems. These victims of emotions running rampant need lots of love and understanding. But what they need most is someone to really listen to them and tell them, “I do not want you to die.”
Blumental, Susan and Kupfer, Davis. Suicide Across the Life Cycle. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1990.
Hyde, Margaret O. and Elizabeth H. Forsythe. Suicide: The Hidden Epidemic. New York: Franklin Watts, 1987.
Klerman, Gerald L. Suicide and Depression Among Adolescents and Young Adults. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc. 1986.
Roy, Alec, editor. Suicide. Baltimore, Maryland: Williams and Wilkins, 1986.
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