PSA: Suicide Risk Higher in Teens Than Ever Before

Sad but true

Naomi Caulson, Contributor

The National Institute of Health says that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for Americans. In 2017 47,375 people died of suicide in this nation, and there were 1,400,000 known suicide attempts. The rate is higher for all races and all ages per 100,000 since the last major study in 1999.

Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages ten through twenty-four in the United States. The rate of suicide for females 10-14 has nearly tripled.

To be blunt, the only things that kill more kids and teenagers are accidents and cancer. But suicide is much more easily prevented than those things are, if people are educated about the warning signs.”

Depression can impact anyone.  There are many symptoms to teen depression. It only takes two weeks to represent a change in functioning for teens. Teen depression can look different from adult depression, as some symptoms include anger and hostility–what might appear to be a bad temper. They also include changes in eating or sleeping habits, fatigue (being tired all the time), hopelessness, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, poor school performance, frequent crying, restlessness, agitation, unexplained aches or pains, and finally, thoughts of death or suicide. 

Adjustment disorder is a common cause of depression, often a response to a life event. Moving away from home, death of a loved one, or dealing with separation of parents are examples of life events. This can last up to six months, and can interfere with sleep, school work, and your social life. 

Dysthymia is a low grade, chronic depression that lasts more than a year. Teens with this type of illness are often irritable and they might have low energy, low self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness. Eating habits and sleep patterns might be disrupted as well. Left untreated, it can take a serious toll on teens.

Major depression is the most morbid of depression, with sufferers more likely to experience anhedonia (loss of interest in things that used to make the person happy) and report physical pain that has no medical cause. It can cause major impairment at home and school. Therapy and antidepressant meds are sometimes urgently needed to people with major depression from harming themselves.

Bipolar disorder can include episodes of depression and mania or hypomania. Signs of this is a reduced need to sleep, difficulty focusing, and a short temper. In a manic episode, teens tend to talk fast, feel very happy or silly, and willing to engage in high risk behavior. They tend to have impairment in daily functioning. These severe mood changes interfere with friendship and education. It is treatable with a combination of medication and therapy, but is a serious mental illness that isn’t necessarily “cured” in many people. 

There are many signs of suicide that may look like “normal” teen behavior. Some are drug or alcohol abuse, acting highly anxious or agitated, acting reckless and taking risks, rages, changes in sleep and/or eating, and dramatic changes in personality. If these behaviors also include being preoccupied by death, talking of feelings of hopelessness, talking about being a burden to others, telling loved ones goodbye, decline in performance, giving prize possessions away, isolation and withdrawal, it is time to seek medical help.

People can get help if they accept it. Here are some tips to help someone with depression or if they are suicidal. 

You cannot take care of someone else without taking care of yourself. Also you have to acknowledge your own emotions. If you are depressed yourself then you would not be able to help others. Do your research and be supportive. Avoid judgement and blame. Offer hope and if the person is taking medication then please understand the potential side effects. Extend love and unconditional compassion; you may just save a life.