Suicides among young people nationwide have increased dramatically in recent years. Each year in the U.S., thousands of young people commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-yer-olds.

Youth experience strong feelings of stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, and other fears while growing up.

For some teenagers, divorce, the formation of a new family with stepparents and step-siblings, or moving to a new community can be very unsettling and can intensify self-doubts. In some cases, suicide appears to be a "solution."

Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. The young person needs to have his or her illness recognized and diagnosed, and appropriate treatment plans developed. When parents are in doubt whether their child has a serious problem, a psychiatric examination can be very helpful.

Many of the symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of depression. Parents should be aware of the following signs of adolescents who may try to kill themselves:

  •    change in eating and sleeping habits
  •    withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
  •    violent actions, rebellious behavior, or rerunning away.
  •    drug and alcohol use
  •    unusual neglect of personal appearance
  •    marked personality change
  •    persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of
  •    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 reward.

A young person who is planning to commit suicide may also:

  •    complain of being a bad person or feeling "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," and "I won't see you again"
  •    put his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite possessions, clean
       his or her room, throw away important belongs, etc.
  •    become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  •    have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts)

If a young person says, "I want to kill myself," or "I'm going to commit suicide," always take the statement seriously and seek evaluation from a psychiatrist or psychologist.

People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. However, asking the youth whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than "putting thoughts in the child's head," such a question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems.

If one or more of the above signs occur, parents need to talk to their child about their concerns and seek professional help when the concerns persist. With support from family and professional treatment, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a healthier path of development.

Risk factors for suicide among the young include suicidal thoughts, psychiatric disorders (such as depression, impulsive aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, certain anxiety disorders), drug and/or alcohol abuse and previous suicide attempts, with the risk of increased if there is also situational stress and access to firearms.




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