Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death of people ages 15-24 and 4th leading cause of children between ages 10-14. The suicide rate among teenagers is on the rise. Many times, teenagers believe suicide is the only way to escape the overwhelming pain they can no longer tolerate in their life. For some it’s to gain attention, manipulate someone or some situation, punish themselves or others for some wrong or sin they’ve committed, maybe become a martyr. Risk factors for suicide are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take his or her life. Suicide risk factors tend to be the highest when someone has several risk factors at the same time. The most frequently cited risk factors for suicide are:
Mental disorders, in particular depression, bipolar disorder (manic- depressive)
Alcohol or substance abuse or dependence
Schizophrenia – borderline or antisocial personality disorder
Conduct disorder (in youth) – Incarceration
Psychotic disorders – psychotic disorders in the context of any disorder
Anxiety disorders – a stressful life event, series of events or major loss
Impulsivity and aggression – especially in the context of the above mental disorders
Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
Obsession with suicidal behaviors on internet sites
Previous suicide attempts – family history of attempted or completed suicide
Serious medical condition or pain and suffering
It’s important to keep in mind a large majority of people with mental disorders or other suicide risk factors DO NOT engage in suicidal behavior.
Causes of teen suicide:
Most common is depression
Feelings of hopelessness – being trap in a life one can’t handle
Divorce of parents
Violence in the home
Inability to be successful in school
Feelings of worthlessness
Rejection by friends, family and peers
Substance and alcohol abuse
Death of someone close to the teenager
Suicide of a friend or someone they ‘know’ online
Signs someone may attempt a suicide. Keep a look out for signs your teen may attempt suicide. However, some signs are similar to normal changing teenage behavior. In the trying times of the teenage years, sometimes normal behavior looks a lot like destructive behavior. It doesn’t hurt to look into the following warning signs:
Talks about death and/or suicide – maybe even in a joking manner
Plans ways to kill him or herself – has a plan
Expresses worries nobody cares about them – you’d be better off without them
Past history of attempted suicide
Withdraws from friends and family – become secluded
Shows signs of depression
Changes in school attendance and/or performance
Shows signs of substance abuse problems
Begins to act recklessly – engages in risk taking behaviors
Begins to give away prized, cherished, sentimental possessions
Spends time online or listening to music that glamorizes suicide or maybe makes suicidal pacts
Buying a weapon or sharp device
Indirect verbal clues:
I can’t go on any longer – I’m tired of life – I can’t take it anymore – Life has no meaning
for me anymore
We all have to say good-bye sometime – You won’t be seeing me anymore
You’d be better off without me – I’m going to cash in my chips
I can’t take the pain any more – I can’t take it any more – You’re going to regret how you treated me
Ask questions: “Asking the question” is sometimes the most difficult part of the intervention process. Direct and non leading questions are most effective:
Have you been thinking about hurting or killing yourself? – When was the last time you thought about
How would you kill yourself? Do you have a plan? Do you have the means to kill yourself?
Have you ever tried to kill yourself before?
Has anyone in your family ever contemplated suicide or committed suicide?
What are the odds you’ll kill yourself? What has been keeping you alive so far?
The do’s of intervention:
Remain calm at all times – Accept their feelings as normal to them
Rephrase their thoughts – Stay focused on the central issue
Stay close to them – spend time with them – Get involved – Be available – Show interest, positive support
Be direct – talk freely and openly about suicide
Listen intently – be honest and empathic – look them in the eye – don’t interrupt – respect silences
Offer hope alternatives are available
Take action! Remove the means! Get help from individuals, counselors, pastors, mental health
agencies etc. who are trained to deal with suicide. Call the police if necessary.
The don’ts of intervention:
Don’t overlook the warning signs
Don’t sound shocked – It creates distance – Don’t offer empty promises
Don’t dare them to do it – Don’t ask ‘why’ it encourages defensiveness
Don’t try to cheer him/her up – Don’t debate morality
Don’t assume things will improve – Don’t leave the person alone
Don’t keep it a secret or be sworn to secrecy – Don’t remain the ONLY person helping them
Postvention – helping suicide survivors – helpful phrases:
I’m sorry for your loss – How can I help? – Is there anyone I can call for you? How are you doing?
Since the suicide, what are the biggest challenges for you?
When your friend/loved one died, what else died?
Since the suicide, what are the biggest challenges for you?
What are the good memories you have of them?
What one small thing can you do differently that might help you?
I’m here if you want to talk any time.
Phrases to avoid:
You’ll get over it (You never really get over it, but find ways to cope)
You know they went to hell – You’re young enough to have another child
You have to snap out of it – Didn’t you see this coming? – What did you do to make them do this?
Crying won’t bring them back (Crying is good and a part of natural grieving process)
Try to think positive – I know how you feel
Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal individuals desperately want to live, they’re just unable to see alternatives to their problems. Most suicide individuals give definite warning signs of their suicidal intentions. Talking about suicide doesn’t cause someone to want to commit suicide. Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8225