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The Growing Problem of Teen Suicide

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A mother finds her 17 year old teenage son hanging from the rafters of their basement. To hear of this occurrence is not rare in society today. Every 90 minutes a teenager in this country commits suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. The National suicide rate has increased 78% between 1952 and 1992. The rate for 15-19 year olds rose from two per 100,000 to 12.9, more than 600 percent. (Special report, Killing the Pain, Rae Coulli)

A 17 year old boy, Douglas Stewart, came home from school to find his mother lying on the sofa with a strained back. Being concerned for her he rubbed her back briefly then put on some easy listening music. Douglas then proceeded downstairs to his bedroom. Two of his friends came to the door. His mother waited to see if he would return to answer it; minutes later she answered and then yelled for him to come up. When he did not come, she went downstairs to get him. That is when she found him strangled and her son’s body dangling from the ceiling. This is a senseless tragic sight for a mother to endure. The mortality rate from suicide in 1996 showed 9.5 per 100,000 for 15-19 year olds. This also shows boys are four times more likely to commit suicide then girls. However, girls are twice as likely to attempt suicide. (American 1996) It is imperative to reverse this trend and in doing so we need to understand the characteristics, behaviors and events associated with youth suicide.

There are many risk factors associated with suicidal ideation and attempts. Risk factors include self-destructive behavior which may be related to life events, unfavourable home environments, or a genetic component. Personality traits like aggression and hostility or feeling introverted or hopeless play a role in suicides. Loss of control, poor problem solving techniques, or rigid cognitive life styles are also characteristics of suicides. Similar traits are found in depressive behaviors. Teenagers may have been exposed to others who have had suicidal behaviors.

Douglas Stewart, the 17 year old boy had previously rehearsed his hanging. Medical people had been summoned to his house two months before because he had tried to hang himself with a dogs choke chain using the stairway banister. In the same area in Calgary between June and ...

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... but in reality they are trying to react to a devastating blow. They need to be reminded that people are hurt for them but do not know what to say or how to say it. Silence does not mean they are blaming or thinking badly of them. Survivors need to release their feelings and resolve their questions. Reading literature on suicide and grief is recommanded. This may offer understanding and suggestions for coping. They may need to seek out a competent counsellor. It is important to take care of oneself in order to help take care of the rest of the family. Alcohol and prescription drugs do not end the pain but merely mask it. These could lead to further withdrawal, loneliness and addiction. There are several hot lines for support groups and suicide prevention. Sometimes it is helpful to contact other survivors of a suicide. Community education is the key to prevention. Suicide prevention services are effective because the person doesn’t necessarily want to die he just wants to stop living like this, to stop the suffering.

“I find myself deep in a hole of sorrow,

To far to bother,

Too far to try,

Too far to get out.

So I tink I’ll just wait here and die.

-Douglas Stewart 1978-1995
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