Teen Suicide in America


One Million & Counting
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Darkness and Light: Teen Suicide in America

In at least one moment of our lives, many of us have felt trapped, alone, and like no one would miss us if we were suddenly gone. Some have stared into this darkness and thought about killing themselves.

But what causes one person to stop in his or her tracks and another to follow through? What is so horrible in the lives of some teenagers to cause them to kill themselves?

“When I was 11, my dad died, which affected me majorly,” says 16-year-old Kayciee, of Roanoke, VA. “I was closest to him and when he died, my world stopped turning.”

That, along with other problems, caused Kayciee to try to kill herself.

"I didn’t truly understand how final suicide was until I tried attempting it,” she says “I almost hit the vein and realized just how final suicide is. I could be dead right now, and that scares me.”

The Darkness

Most people feel that teen suicide is a tragic element of human existence. Many people, rich or poor, male or female—including the very old or sick—have resorted to suicide to escape internal darkness or external oppression, or continual pain from illness.

But teen suicide is a fairly modern tragedy.

"Rates for suicide among youths ages 15 to 24 rose dramatically in the latter half of the 20th century, increasing more than 200 percent from the 1950's to the late 1970's” says Lanny Berman, Ph.D., executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, in Washington, D.C.

Since then, suicide rates have remained stable. But it is still the third leading cause of death among young people.

So, what causes teen suicide?

According to Berman, about 90 percent of suicidal teens have undiagnosed mental disorders. Depression is the most common, Berman says. But suicide is usually the result of a lot of different factors, including life events that bring some teens down.

After Kayciee’s father died, her problems got even worse. At age 14, she discovered she was adopted by her grandparents and that “the family friend I knew as Teresa was really my mom.”

Kayciee, like many teens, also felt pressure to do well in school, believing that she had to earn straight A’s or “my grandparents would quit loving me.”

Eventually, the stress and depression caused Kayciee to plan suicide.

“I’ve planned suicides in great detail, but I don’t think I’ve really tried.”

Seeking the Light

Suicide is preventable. The first thing to do is recognize the signs in yourself or someone you know. The most common signs, according to Berman, include:

  • Difficulties with relationships between friends, family, and others
  • Feelings of isolation, or feeling unloved by others
  • Feeling like you can’t solve the problems you face
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive behavior when faced with a problem
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • Severe depression and persistent pessimism
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you notice a friend experiencing any of the above, “the first thing to do is offer a listening ear and support,” says Berman. But, he adds, the “next thing to do is help that friend get help from someone trained to help. Talk to a trusted adult and get the friend to see a mental health professional who is respected for working with teens.”

Berman adds that if a friend tells you he or she is contemplating suicide, the “worst thing to do is to keep it a secret. Comfort your friend and stay with him or her until you find competent helpers.”

The same goes for you, if you’re feeling depressed or unable to cope with the pressures or problems you face. The first step is to get help. It’s tough to ask for help, but it can help you find your way out of the darkness.

Kayciee went through ten hospitalizations, intensive therapy, and saw a psychiatrist on a regular basis. She’s no longer suicidal because of “therapy, medication, and the help of people around me.”

Not every teen can afford to see a private therapist, but many organizations across the country provide low-cost or free counseling to teens (see Editors’ Note, below).

“I think to change your outlook on life, you need a tremendous amount of help and support from the people around you and the help of doctors and therapists,” says Kayciee. “You have to find the good in life and then work towards outweighing the bad with the good.”

Editors’ Note: Are you suicidal and need help? Text "sos" to 741741 the Crisis Text Hotline. Want to talk?tgo to 800.273.TALK (8255) or TDD 800.448.1833 The hotlines can connect you to trained telephone workers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you’re a teen who can’t afford a private therapist and don’t have insurance, the National Hopeline Network can help you find a place to receive low-cost or free counseling in your area.

Source: By Danny Mitarotondo, 17, Staff Writer. Additional reporting by national correspondent Stephanie Nolasco, 18, of New York City. www.sxetc.org/?topic=Stories&sub_topic=Emotional+Health&content_id=3181&PHPSESSID=307b372c1a20a6487c8a4dcf80052e75  

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How many people have wanted to kill themselves and have been content with tearing up their photograph! - Jules Renard

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