Imagine you’re standing atop a high bridge, you take a deep breath, say one last silent goodbye to your friends and family, and leap to your death. By doing this, you’re making a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You may be solving your own personal problem, but imagine the pain, suffering, and anguish that your friends, family, and peers go through. The people around you are wondering what was going through your mind and why you did it. Maybe you even told some of your friends that you were going to do it, and they didn’t believe you, thinking it was a joke. You may have told your friends about your plans, but apparently, your parents had no clue as to why you would choose to take your life, but this is the case with most teenage suicides. A lot of the time the parents don’t have any clue that there was anything wrong in their children’s lives, and also the teen’s friends might have had some kind of clue, but they didn’t do anything about it. Overall, they are left grieving their dead child or friend who took their own life away without any explanation.
Sadly, teen suicide occurs nearly 5,000 times each year. Even more amazing is that 400,000 to 2 million teens attempt to commit suicide each year. Psychologists and therapists, teachers and school counsellors, leaders of youth groups, and researchers who study society and young people have come up with a list of reasons as to why the teen decided to kill themselves. The list of culprits is long: too much divorce, too little religion, too much television, and too little communication between parents and children have been blamed. Absent parents, too much sexual freedom, widespread use of drugs and alcohol, too many guns, not enough love, and a world that seems hostile have also been blamed for pushing young people to their deaths. All these reasons have probably contributed to the suicides of teens, but none of them provide the final explanation as to what pushes the kids over the edge and why they choose to die. Maybe it’s the peer pressure or the painful reality of growing up in a time in your life where it’s important to be accepted by your peers.
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Or maybe the teen is in a condition of extreme guilt or shame, they could be pregnant or might think they are pregnant and are ashamed to tell their parents. But the most concrete reason Psychologists say there is, is the severe depression some teens go through. They might have an extremely bad day or week when nothing seems to go right. Psychiatrists cite certain factors that often lead to depression; they include new surroundings, family problems, failure, the ending of a relationship, or death. And in some cases there seem to be no reasons at all. Just like the case of an African-American male named Todd Robinson, who was in the lower risk category for suicide. According to statistics, on any given day, only five African-American men can be expected to take their lives. On July 7, 1987, Todd became one of those men. He shot himself in the head in his room. His parents didn’t expect anything. He just graduated from high school, had a bright future ahead of him, and didn’t really have any physical or emotional problems.
Even after they looked through his journal there wasn’t really any clue, but his last entry read “Lately the thought of suicide has crossed my mind. I don’t know why. I have a wonderful family and friends. I have an excellent future ahead of me. But I’m going to do it. Mom, the Dad, don’t fall apart.” Sometimes there is just no explanation, again there really is no telling what goes on in kids’ minds as they contemplate taking their lives. The Centers for Disease Control report that between 1980 and 1993 the suicide rate has risen 120% for 10-14-year-olds, and for 15-19-year-olds it has risen almost 30%. Also, between 1970 and 1980 one out of every six Americans who committed suicide was a young person between the ages of 15 and 24. Studies in California and Kansas reports that about one out of every ten teens questioned admitted to having attempted suicide.
Right now you are probably wondering WHO could be stupid enough to try and commit suicide? Psychologists say that there is no such thing as a “typical” suicidal personality. But most suicides are committed by white males from middle-class homes. The suicide rate for whites is nearly twice as high as it is for nonwhites. Yet, statistics say that African-Americans attempt suicide more often than people of other races, they simply do not succeed as often. And among Native American youths, the number of suicides has tripled during the last 20 years. Studies also show that 25-30% of gay and lesbian youth attempt suicide. While there is no “typical” suicidal personality, experts say victims do share some common traits: the following is a list of traits from Eleanor Ayer’s book Teen Suicide Is It Too Painful to Grow Up? The first is Low self-esteem. People who feel good about themselves, their personality, the way they look, have high self-esteem. But those who have a negative opinion of themselves, think they have no place in the world, feel inferior to others, have low self-esteem. Often, there is no basis for low self-esteem. Talented, good-looking, kind, intelligent people often suffer from it.
Next, Loneliness. Lonely people are among the highest risks for suicide. Loneliness is a feeling of not being accepted by others, whether by one’s classmates, one’s parents, or other adults. Some teenagers isolate themselves with drugs or alcohol. Some have a disability or are made to feel different for religious or racial relations. Some just never perform close friendships. Third, Difficulty expressing emotions. People who can let off steam easily when under stress generally are those who do NOT attempt suicide. Instead, it is the person who lets anger or sorrow build up inside, the one who is afraid to cry when he or she is sad, who is in danger. Teenagers who are unable to express their feelings often think of themselves as being emotionally dead, which leads to thoughts of being physically dead as well. Fourth, Easily angered. Some teenagers become angry easily and are quick to fight. These people lack self-control. It is hard for them to react calmly or logically in a different situation.
Fifth, Perfectionism. People should always try to do their best. But a teenager’s need to be perfect is all-consuming, perfectionism is no longer healthy. Often, perfectionists are very intelligent, even gifted teenagers. But they set such high standards for themselves that they are never able to meet them. When they fail, they become frustrated, depressed, and sometimes suicidal. Sixth, Pessimism. For pessimists the world is a trap, waiting to spring its jaws shut. Teenagers who have a pessimistic view of the world are more likely to try suicide. They see little hope for succeeding or for solving their problems. More than 30,000 people a year, 5,000 of that number are teens, kill themselves in the United States. Friends and family members are always shocked saying they had no idea. But if you look close enough, listen hard, and dig deeper under the surface you will be able to see and hear some of the common warning signs. List courtesy of Eleanor Ayer’s book Teen Suicide Is It too Painful to Grow Up?
The first is Excessive talk of death Severely depressed teens often dwell on death. They may say things like, “I wonder what it’s like to be dead? What happens to your mind when your heart stops?” Often they show great interest in any news story or conversation that involves death. The threat of Suicide. A young person in distress may threaten “If I don’t do well on these finals, I’m going to kill myself.” Sometimes the statement is less direct like “I wish I’d never been born,” or “You’d be better off if I weren’t here.” Acting up. It is normal and expected for most teenagers to object to authority. Adolescence is a time for developing independence, for breaking away from parental control. But when a young person is continually wild and unruly, the problem may be more serious. No concern for personal appearance. Most teens want to have clothes, shoes, and hair, that is “in” When a teenager cares little about his appearance, it could be a way of saying, “Why should I care? I’m not good anyhow”.
Lack of interest. If a teenager begins to lose interest in friends, hobbies, sports, or school, he or she may be losing interest in life. Long periods of sitting and staring into space or sleeping during the day can be signs of serious depression. Getting rid of personal items. When people give away the things that mean the most to them, they may be putting their lives in the final order, getting ready for the end. Prolonged sadness or crying. Extreme moodiness and depression can be signs of a meaningless and empty life. With these moods come tears, silent sobbing, or a continually sad look. Moody teens rarely smile and never laugh. Life no longer seems worth living, and their faces show it. Increased drug or alcohol use. A person who is about to commit suicide may start to use drugs and alcohol more regularly thinking ” What does it matter if I get drunk every night? Soon I won’t be here at all.” Increased use of drugs and alcohol can be a major warning sign of severe depression and possible suicide.
Change in eating and sleeping habits. Some suicidal teens, without realizing it, try to starve themselves. Burdened by severe depression, they seem to care nothing for food. Others eat all the time. Either way, it’s a sign of trouble. Another indication of trouble is a change in sleeping habits. Some depressed people sleep most of the day, while others have trouble sleeping. Hurting oneself. Teenagers who are at the point of suicide may first try it on a small scale. In one “accident” after another, they may cut, burn, or injure themselves. These are not really accidents. This is self-destructive behaviour, which, in effect, is an effort to punish oneself. Physical problems. Some suicidal teenagers can develop physical problems that are not caused by any illness. Such problems, like vomiting every day before school, can be caused by severe depression. Nearly three times more women than men attempt suicide, but nearly four times more men than women actually kill themselves. Experts say one reason is the different methods of suicide used by males and females.
Women tend to choose less violent, less effective methods of killing themselves than men do. Women are more likely to overdose on drugs than to use guns or to hang themselves. One reason could be that fewer women have access to guns or know how to use them. Taking narcotics (drugs that cause sleep or that relieve pain) is the method of suicide most used by teenagers, especially girls. This is because sleeping pills and certain other narcotics are often found in household medicine cabinets. Drugs are a less effective method though because they take more time to kill a person. If the victim is discovered in time, and immediate help is found, he or she may be saved. This is the reason fewer girls die by suicide, although many more attempt it. The second most common method of suicide, and the one most popular with boys, is the use of firearms.
Putting a loaded gun to your head, and pulling the trigger is final. Death usually occurs instantly. There is no going back. There is rarely any chance for the victim to get help. This is why more teen boys die than teen girls. Slashing the wrists is another means used by girls. Just like taking drugs, bleeding to death is a slow way of dying. If help is close, the victim might be saved. Poisonous gas also brings slow death. Inhaling the carbon monoxide from car exhaust is one method of teen suicide. Turning on the engine of an automobile that is in a closed garage fills the air with carbon monoxide. This makes the victim sleepy. Again, if help comes in time the teen has a chance of recovery. Drowning, jumping from a skyscraper or bridge, and standing in the path of a moving vehicle are all methods of suicide most commonly used by adults and not teens. It is difficult to dive into deep water when you cannot swim, or jump off a very high building. Many depressed teenagers are confused and scared about committing suicide.
Their uncertainty and fear lead them to choose a method where less courage is required. Sociologists say that teen suicide is an epidemic. When one teenager commits suicide, several others seem to follow. Every 105 minutes another person under the age of 25 dies by committing suicide. That’s 13 a day. In one Colorado County alone, 18 teenagers killed themselves in just 18 months. During a five-week period at an Arkansas high school, 4 boys committed suicide. In New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, and elsewhere, “cluster” suicides have become a tragic new epidemic. Why does one suicide lead to so many others? Teenagers tend to follow the crowd more than people in other age groups do. When a young person commits suicide, they are sometimes seen as a hero, one who is not afraid to carry out a threat or to take “the big step”. Teen suicide is a sad and awful thing. There are ways each and every one of us can help to prevent suicide. The number-one rule in suicide prevention is Don’t Stay silent!
If someone says they’re going to commit suicide to believe them. Don’t think that this crazy idea will pass. Even if the suicidal person pleads with you not to tell, never promise to keep quiet. It could mean their life. Many teenagers who attempt suicide are loners. They think they have no one to talk to, no one who cares. They simply want someone to help them. If a suicidal person can tell someone about his or her feelings, it may help to ease the depression. Here are some things to remember: Taken from Eleanor Ayer’s book Teen Suicide: Is it too painful to grow up? Be alert for weapons of self-destruction, such as guns, knives, razors, and pills. Take steps to get them removed. Don’t be afraid to ask directly, “Are you planning to commit suicide?” This approach is much better than a question like, “You wouldn’t really do anything to hurt yourself, would you?”
If the answer to your straightforward question is yes, do not appear shocked. This could cause the person to lose faith in you as a friend and supporter. Never leave a suicidal person alone. Try to find the time to sit down and talk with the person. Try not to make the person feel guilty by saying things like, “think how your parents would feel.” Don’t criticize. “Let’s talk about solutions other than suicide” is better than “You’re kidding me! You’re going to kill yourself just because you’re failing math? Don’t offer false hope. Shallow promises like “You’ll feel better tomorrow,” or “Cheer up-things aren’t that bad,” show that you don’t understand. For a suicidal person, there may be no tomorrow, and things really are that bad. Reverse psychology doesn’t work on a suicidal teenager. If a friend says, “I’m going to commit suicide, “don’t say “Yeah, right. Go ahead. I dare you.” This may push the person over the edge.
Offer comfort, but not advice. Suicidal teenagers do not want to hear what you would do In this situation. Even if they ask, most do not intend to follow your suggestions. Never swear yourself to secrecy. Do not agree not to tell. When you are dealing with a suicidal person, you need to get help at once, no matter what the person says. Don’t be too casual. Comments like “I know how you feel, I’ve been depressed myself,” only show a suicidal teen that you do not understand. Unless you have tried to commit suicide yourself, you do not really know how hopeless and unhappy this person feels. You need to let him or her know that you understand how serious the situation really is, without pretending to be an expert. Never Argue. A suicidal teenager is already at the emotional breaking point. He or she needs a friend, not an enemy-someone who will show caring and understanding.
And last is Don’t ask a depressed person why he or she wants to commit suicide. Instead, listen and try to encourage the person to talk. Then you will know why without asking. Getting the person to talk and being a good listener are two of the best ways a friend or family member can help prevent suicide. There have been many programs dedicated to helping prevent teenage suicide. Perhaps the most famous is the Yellow Ribbon Project. You all might remember a couple of months back there was a week dedicated to the Yellow Ribbon Project. We hung up yellow ribbons all around the school and had little cards (hold up the card) that look like this out. Well, the whole yellow Ribbon Project started with a story of a young man named Mike Emme who killed himself. His parents were so grief-stricken and shocked that they decided they wanted to do everything they could to help prevent other teens from doing the same thing their son did. I will now hand out a story courtesy of Chicken Soup for the teenage soul. It’s called I’ll Always Be With You.
Since this story was printed, it has helped many people cope with suicide. It has also prevented many teens from taking the final step to suicide. There are also many other places you can go to get help with suicide. There are many hotlines out there that you can call up anytime you want National Suicide Hotline (24 Hours) Teenage Suicide Center. Suicide is growing quickly among teens in the United States. Sometimes when a teen enters a state of deep depression, they see suicide as a way out. They make a final solution to a temporary problem. Well, suicide is not the way to solve a bad situation in your life. Someone will always be there for you. Not only do you suffer when you commit suicide; it also affects your family, friends, and all the people around you. There are many reasons people commit suicide, depression, bad grades, pregnancy, not being able to be with the one you love, the list goes on. Especially with the recent events in Columbine High School with the suicide murder massacre, we see that this has to come to a stop. We need to work together to try to prevent suicide from happening. When a situation gets bad, do not see suicide as a way out. Wait it out, and eventually, things will get better.