As an extremely complex tragedy, that unfortunately happens all the time throughout the United States. There are friends, parents, and peers that are facing the misfortune of losing a young, close, loved one to suicide. Most people don’t realize that adolescent suicide is common. They don’t want to believe how often this occurs in the secure environment found in the small towns of America, as well as in its largest cities. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds, and the sixth leading cause for 5 to 14 year olds. Suicide accounts for twelve percent of the mortality in the adolescent and young adult group. Young males are more common than young woman suicides. These are only children who followed through with the suicide. For every successful suicide there are fifty to one hundred adolescent suicide attempts. In other words, more than five percent of all teenagers tried to commit suicide, and the number is still rising. It is scary to think that four percent of high school students have made a suicide attempt within the previous twelve months. In a small safe town like Avon, in the Avon High School where you and I practically live, you can see the faces of 22 students that have tried to commit suicide. That is enough to fill a classroom.
It is hard to precisely determine the cause of an adolescent suicide. But through notes that are left by the victim and the turn of events that have seemed to have taken place in the young person’s world, common causes can be found.
Some of these are broken romances, family tension, problems at school, and other pressures. All though most of the time it is more than just one of these causes. There are many signs to look out for in a teen that will/may commit suicide. 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.
Change in eating and sleeping habits.
Withdrawal from friends, and family and regular activities.
Violent actions, rebellious behavior or running away.
Drug and alcohol use.
Unusual neglect of personal appearance.
Marked personality change.
Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of school work
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.
Complain of being “rotten inside”
Give verbal hints with statements such as: “I won’t be a problem for you much longer,” “Nothing matters,” “It’s no use,” “I won’t see you again.”
Put his/her affairs in order—for example, give away favorite possessions, clean his/her room, throw away important belongings, etc.
Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression.
There are many misconceptions about suicide. These are also known as myths of suicide. For some reason people tend to think that adolescents who talk about suicide are not serious about doing it. This is untrue, it has been proven that almost all suicidal teens have at one point verbally or nonverbally, told someone about their considering suicide. This leads to another myth, that suicide happens without warning. For the same reason as the myth, adolescents aren’t serious about it, suicide usually occurs with at least one warning. Some other myths are once an adolescent is suicidal, he/she must always and forever be considered suicidal (adolescent who once considered suicide) ; if an adolescent attempts suicide and survives, he/she will not make and additional attempt (adolescent who actually made the attempt); Adolescents who commit suicide always leave notes (only a small percentage actually leave notes); Most adolescent suicides happen late at night; Never use the word “suicide” when talking to adolescents because it may put ideas in their heads; and People with strong religious beliefs will not attempt suicide.
These are all misunderstandings about teen suicide, why people automatically think this, I do not know. Some suspect that it is television and the media, I believe that people think this because they are taught to. Parents, teachers, and mentors all try to make suicide seem like something that really doesn’t happen that often. They make it seem unrealistic, for example Most adolescent suicides happen at night. It is making it seem that a suicide can never happen on a bright, sunny day, but it does. People have to become aware of the reality of how serious and real suicide is. There are thousands of teenagers each year that reportedly have committed suicide , and it has been estimated that the actual number of suicides may be two to three times greater than the reported number. It is terrifying.
There are consequences when a teen decides to kill themselves. Not only are there consequences for the victim, but the victim’s family, friends, and peers. When an adolescent commits suicide it affects and makes an impact on every single person the victim ever talked to. It seems to especially touch the family, in a devastating way.
“It was the most devastating thing that could ever happen to me, yet it was the most powerful.” This was said by one survivor of suicide, someone who has lived with a suicide of someone they knew in their life. This particular woman was a medical nurse at a hospital, and now is a psychiatric nurse in a different department of the hospital. “I want to make sure that I can help someone that is in trouble, so that I can help someone like brother, and know that I did all that I can. I also lead a support group called Survivors of Suicide.” Many families struggle after a loved one commits suicide, especially a teen. “When a teen commits suicide, their parents, and others tend to feel that that person’s life was cut short, it was a could-of-been that never got realized.”
When a teen commits suicide, it affects all of the teen’s peers, it is easily seen in that students school. Many of the peers react differently. “Some kids are angry at the person for making the choice they did. Kids also have pretended like nothing happened, like IT didn’t happen. Those are the kids we worry most about.” But these reactions are just short term. Over a long period of time, when people finally adapt to the loss, many questions arise, and most can not be answered.
The notorious question of “why” always is a major factor in the recuperating process. “At first it was almost like a quest to find out why my brother killed himself, but I came to terms with it. There is no exact answer to the question ‘why’, there is just an answer that satisfies you. The answer to that question died with the person that committed suicide.” Other people don’t accept it that easily though. Some go on for years, searching for the answer that is never to be found. These people never find closure, and end up wasting their lives away on this impossible mission. It seems that almost like when someone kills themselves, they kill the people around them too.
Teenage suicide is a massive problem in America today. It isn’t just statistics and sad stories, but real life. Real people are getting hurt by this problem every day. But unlike most problems in America, this can be prevented. And it is being prevented with the help of such groups as the American Association of Suicide Sociology and The Suicide Prevention Group. Also local schools are developing stress questionnaires, so that they can evaluate their students on their stress and see if anyone may be suicidal. But it needs to go further than that. Parents, teachers, and other mentors need to be aware of any suicidal adolescents. They need to be aware of the signs, and educate themselves on how to deal with a suicidal teen. We can’t just rely on organizations and the government to watch our own children, it is our responsibility, each and every one of us.
Throughout researching teen suicide for my I-search report, I have learned many things. That no matter where you live, even in a small, sheltered town like Avon, there lurks the devastating reality of teen suicide. That there is no escaping it, all you can do is try to prevent it. All though I found my topic extremely depressing, I also found an extreme profoundness while researching it. It made me realize just how lucky I am, that I am the one helping, not the one hurting.