The Problem of Teenage Suicide

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The Problem of Teenage Suicide

Most everyone at some time in his or her life will experience periods of anxiety, sadness, and despair. These are normal reactions to the pain of loss, rejection, or disappointment. Those with serious mental illnesses, however, often experience much more extreme reactions, reactions that can leave them mired in hopelessness. And when all hope is lost, some feel that suicide is the only solution.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, scientific evidence has shown that almost all people who take their own lives have a diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder, and the majority have more than one disorder. In other words, the feelings that often lead to suicide are highly treatable. That’s why it is imperative that we better understand the symptoms of the disorders and the behaviors that often accompany thoughts of suicide. With more knowledge, we can often prevent the devastation of losing a loved one.

Now the eighth-leading cause of death overall in the U.S. and the third-leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years, suicide has become the subject of much recent focus. U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, for instance, recently announced his Call to Action to Prevent Suicide, 1999, an initiative intended to increase public awareness, promote intervention strategies, and enhance research. The media, too, has been paying very close attention to the subject of suicide, writing articles and books and running news stories. Suicide among our nation’s youth, a population very vulnerable to self-destructive emotions, has perhaps received the most discussion of late. Maybe this is because teenage suicide seems the most tragic—lives lost before they’ve even started. Yet, while all of this recent focus is good, it’s only the beginning. We cannot continue to lose so many lives unnecessarily.

Some Basic Facts

In 1996, more teenagers and young adults died of suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

In 1996, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among college students, the third-leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24 years, and the fourth- leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 14 years.

From 1980 to 1996, the rate of suicide among African-American males aged 15 to 19 years increased by 105 percent.

It is a hopeful sign that while the incidence of suicide among adolescents and young adults nearly tripled from 1965 to 1987, teen suicide rates in the past ten years have actually been declining, possibly due to increased recognition and treatment.

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