Youth Suicide Rates are Rising. What You Need to Know about Teen Suicide

To the surprise of many, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States, with roughly 5,000 teens taking their lives each year. Furthermore, at least 25 suicides are attempted by teens for every complete suicide. A study by the National Center for Health Statistics foubd that the rate of suicides in teenage girls has reached a 40 year high, while suicides among teen boys has also increased. By why such high numbers? Why are teens at risk to suicide?

At least 90% of teens who kill themselves, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics, have some type of mental health problem. This may include alcohol or drug abuse, anxiety, behavior problems, and depression. Indeed, these troubled youth also often have challenges and problems at school or with friends or family. For some, it is a combination of both. In addition, many of those teens that do commit suicide were victims of bullying, including cyberbullying, and of physical or sexual abuse. Along with this, there is often also a lack of a support network of some kind for the teen, as well as a poor relationship with parents and family members.

Children in foster care are also at risk of suicide. To be sure, these are all issues that children in foster care face and struggle with on a daily basis. According to one study, adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly two and a half times more likely to seriously consider suicide than other youth. The same study also found that adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly four times more likely to have attempted suicide than other youth.

For many of today’s teens, social media is an outlet they are turning to as they consider suicide. Perhaps one of the most disturbing trends online is that of the pro suicide sites that can easily be found on the internet. These sites offer suggestions on how to commit suicide, or as one site put it, “to find the final exit”. Online users can find suggestions on how to kill themselves while asleep, in front of others, in the privacy of a bedroom, or even through the use of over the counter medication. For those children who are suffering through great bouts of depression, these sites offer advice and suggestions from “pro suicide experts,” as well as from others who try to encourage the depressed victims to end their lives. Adding additional confusion to these potential victims is the fact the many of these sites suggest that suicide is a positive solution to their problems, or even a spiritual release to their pain and struggle. For a child looking for help or encouragement, this type of encouragement may be the answer they are looking for.

For those teens who are considering suicide, it is important to recognize the warning signs. Many times, youth who are contemplating suicide will often talk about the act, or about death, in general. Along with this, they may also talk about feelings of hopelessness. They may suggest to others that they may not be around much longer, through talking with others, in letters, poems, or even music. During this time, those youth thinking about suicide may also begin to isolate themselves from both friends and family, and even begin to give away important possessions of theirs to others. There is often a loss of interest in school, sports, and family activities. Others may begin to show signs of changes in their normal eating and sleeping behaviors, while others may begin to take part in risky or dangerous behaviors.

There are children who feel as if there is nowhere to turn to. Indeed, as you read this, there are those teens who are considering suicide as a release of their pain, their abuse, their trauma It is time that those in society decide to help. For those looking for help or for more information, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line.

Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert on parenting and foster care. He has been a foster parent for 15 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to foster care agencies, child welfare organizations, and legal firms, as well as a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several foster care books, including The Foster Parenting Manual, and writes for several publications. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail.com, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.