Teenagers today are three times more likely to commit suicide compared to teenagers in the era when their parents attended high school. This increased rate reflects the fact that teenagers are facing more stress in the 21st century than their peers of a generation ago. These pressures include, but are not limited to, alcohol and drug use, family divorce, abuse and neglect, teen relationships, unexpected pregnancy, low self-esteem, depression and loneness, academic stress, confusion about being sexually active, cyberbullying, death of a friend or family member, discovering their sexual orientation (realizing that he or she identifies as gay), “fitting in,” eating disorders, guilt, and living in a violent environment. According to the Surgeon General of the United States, on average one teenager younger than the age 15 commits suicide every 2 hours.
Some of these issues may seem small or petty to adults, but to a young person they are very real and serious. High school students are less likely to have the same level of maturity and experience as an adult. When teens feel overwhelmed by their problems, they do not understand how to deal with these obstacles, which in effect causes them to fall into a depressive state. Students may feel weighed down by the problems that they face, taking what could be a minor issue and magnifying it into an unrealistic dramatization. Teenagers frequently feel that the pain they are experiencing is never ending.
People who attempt to commit suicide do not really wish to die. Rather, a suicide attempt is a violent cry for help, an act of desperation that seeks attention. Individuals who take this road want someone to become aware of their problems. Because they do not know who to turn to in a time of need, they decide to act on what they know. They know that if they end their life, all of the pain and unbearable suffering that they feel will also end. This can seem like a fair trade for some people. The pain may be so powerful that it seems the only recourse they have for ending their horrific suffering is to end their life. In fact, suicide is not the answer: No pain is so great that it cannot be overcome and worked through. Suicide is often referred to as the easy way out of a difficult situation.
Why do teenagers committee suicide? Teenagers can feel overwhelmed by their current situation and have no outlet to express their emotional struggles. Some teens may feel burdensome to their family, feel worthless, or have no hope for the future. If a teenager has been the victim of physical or sexual abuse, he or she is also more at risk to commit suicide; the same is true of a person who has been bullied in school and a teenager dealing with his or her homosexuality in an unsupportive family, who lacks a support network. Other students may be suffering with untreated depression or may have a medical condition, such as bipolar disorder, making them more likely to take their own life. Depression in its simplest form occurs when a hormonal imbalance in the brain causes an overwhelming feeling of sadness, loneness, grief, loss of interest, or sense of isolation from the rest of the world. Once a student attempts suicide, he or she is twice as likely to attempt suicide again; the subsequent attempt usually succeeds.
Males are more successful in their attempts to commit suicide, because they tend to use more extreme measures such as strangulation, hanging, and shooting themselves. Females, by comparison, lean toward less extreme measures such as drowning, overdosing on medication, and other forms of drug use. Other means of suicide include drinking poison, inhaling carbon monoxide, suffocation, faking an accident, cutting one’s wrists, or jumping from heights.
It is a myth to believe that most suicides are irrational behavior. When persons begin contemplating suicide, they generally have been dealing with their own personal issues for a length of time. It is highly unusual that a troubled person will immediately pick up a gun and decide to end his or her life. More commonly, individuals think long and hard about how they want to die, which method of suicide they will use, and whether to write a suicide note. If written, such a note typically lists the reasons why a person would choose to take their own life.
Most teenagers emit some discreet signals to their family, friends, or teachers, letting them know that they need help. Nevertheless, a small percentage of teenagers show no signs that they are experiencing a struggle. Worrisome signals include a depressed mood, substance abuse, frequently running away, family loss, talking about death, or withdrawal from friends and family. Other signs, according to the APA, include losing interest in things once loved, having difficulty dealing with one’s sexual orientation, having an unplanned pregnancy, impulsive or aggressive behavior, and frequent expressions of rage.
Suicide is outlawed by only two states in the United States. Why have more states not outlawed this behavior? History has shown that when the states decided to make this activity illegal, the number of suicide attempts increased. Suicide is a controversial subject. Many people think of suicide as committing murder. Conversely, others feel that it is up to individuals to decide when they want to end their own life and that such a personal decision should not be ceded to the government.
What effect does suicide have on the victim’s family members? Losing a family member, friend, or classmate has long-term effects for those who knew the victim. Beyond the obvious feelings of grief and devastation, they may suffer emotionally and physically from this traumatic experience and lose their focus on other important tasks in life. Suicide of a loved one will very likely affect survivors’ emotional state of mind for an extended amount of time. Psychotherapy, children-oriented therapy (such as playing or artwork), or physical exercise may help a person cope with these circumstances.
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