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Friday, September 16, 2011

Does Your Teen Have Suicidal Thoughts?

I had a discussion with my almost teenage daughter the other night about teen suicide and she remembered when she was really young her father telling her, “Nothing is ever bad enough to take your own life.”
He repeated this to my son and daughter many times evidently while we were getting divorced and my older child was struggling. He went to therapy for a year and talked with a counselor about it which helped more than you can imagine.
I have my own memory of a boy who killed himself, the valedictorian of the high school class behind me. It was the day before graduation and from what I remember, because his parents were getting divorced. He had a full scholarship to an Ivy League School waiting for him. He was such a nice kid, on the outside everything seemed fine. But obviously he was struggling terribly, and at 17 his life was lost.
I had heard that teen suicide is more common than we think, and in fact teens who drink alcohol or take drugs are far more likely to kill themselves than those who don’t. Girls are more likely than boys. Those who are bullied or those struggling with their sexuality are also at increased risk. Family trauma such as death or divorce may cause thoughts of suicide.

So while I preach about alcohol use and communicating with your kids, every parent should  remember that their adolescents may seem grown-up, but inside they’re trying to figure out their place in everything. It's confusing, scary and can be completely overwhelming. If depression runs in your family, you can get hit doubly hard.
Let the data scare you
How pervasive is the problem of youth suicide? Studies by the Center for Disease Control tell us: 

For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death, resulting in about 4400 lives lost each year.

FIfteen percent of 9-12th graders  in public and private schools in the U.S. reported seriously considering suicide, 11% reported creating a plan, and 7% reporting trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey.

Among reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 84% of the deaths were males and 16% were females. Girls, however, are more likely to report attempting suicide than boys.

Native American/Alaskan Native and Hispanic youth having the highest rates of suicide-related fatalities. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9-12 in public and private schools in the U.S. found Hispanic youth were more likely to report attempting suicide than their black and white, non-Hispanic peers.

When my daughter mentioned her peers too had thought about suicide, I was horrified. The good news is she told me about it. Make sure that your kids do too.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I'm so glad you're putting this message out. When I was in 6th grade I attempted suicide and more than once. I never told anyone for years and have never told my parents. What's amazing to me is that my parents never noticed anything or tried to talk to me. I had all the symptoms of childhood depression. I want parents to be aware of their children and what they're doing. Mine weren't and I'm ok, but things would have been easier if one of my parents had noticed anything. Good for you for being aware and involved; those conversations might seem inconsequential, but they mean a lot to kids.