All lives are precious. However, the most heart wrenching losses are undeniably the deaths of children. When it comes to our nation’s teenagers, the loss is very acute. Viewed on the cusp of adulthood, the future is bright, or at least it should be. However, teenage suicide is on the rise. The time to prevent these senseless deaths in America is NOW. The first step is to separate fact from fiction.
Fact vs. Fiction
It’s summer break for most teenagers right now, but before we know it the yellow buses will start appearing around town carrying our children to school. Since the Parkland school shooting, our youth has risen and begun to actively fight against violence in our nation’s schools. I for one commend these teenagers, who demand violence stop at their schools. However, it is important to note and discuss the fact that more teenage deaths are attributed to suicide than at the hands of an active school shooter.
The most up-to-date suicide statistics are from a comprehensive report by the CDC in 2015. Although there is no definitive data for suicide attempts, the CDC utilized data from emergency rooms throughout the United States for the report. Below are the shocking statistics showing the rise of teenage suicide in our country:
- The suicide rate for girls between 15-19 hit a 40-year high in 2015
- Between 2007 – 2015, suicide rates doubled for girls and rose by 30% for boys
- There have been approximately 100,000 teen suicide deaths over the 40-year period between 1975 through 2015
- Boys are at more risk; they take their lives 3-4 times more often than girls
- There have been 18 school shootings so far in 2018: FALSE, This number includes incidents where students brought a gun to school but did not become an active shooter. There were actually 5 incidents totaling 26 students killed (still way too many, but suicide claims more teen lives and it’s too often shoved to the side).
- Teenagers are more likely to be a victim of a homicide than suicide – FALSE, suicide is the second leading cause of death for American youth.
- Teenagers who attempt suicide really want to die – FALSE, suicide is usually a call for help, with the support of family and professional help, teenagers can overcome their suicidal tendencies.
- Most suicides occur without warning – FALSE, teens will indicate they are suicidal; it’s up to us to watch for the signs before it’s too late.
Unfortunately, it often takes firsthand knowledge of a teenage suicide to rally the community and start talking about the elephant in the room. Unfortunately, these thoughts of outrage and action are usually short lived, due to lack of media coverage. However, suicide claims significantly more American teens than homicide. We need to band together and help our youth choose life instead of death, one teenager at a time.
What We Can Do
Although teenagers are considered self-sufficient, they are still children, ultimately under the protection and care of adults. The cause of death of the American teenager often stems from depression, bullying and other societal pressures played out real time within our digitized society.
The teenage addiction to social media fuels the fire and creates bullies and victims of bullying alike. Add this to the natural angst every teenager deals with, and self-hate and thoughts of suicide increase significantly.
As mentioned before there are signs to watch out for. Listed below are subtle suicidal indicators that may indicate that your teen or a teenager you know is contemplating suicide:
- Having feelings of hopelessness
- Talking about, writing about, or drawing about death
- Withdrawing from social activities, ties, or relationships
- Losing interest in normal pleasurable activities and everyday activities
- Giving away important personal items
- Undergoing significant changes in personality and mood
If you notice any of these signs, be sure to take them very seriously and talk about suicide with the teen. There is no “snapping out of it” anymore. One teenage suicide is one too many. Get help: National Suicide Prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255.
Timothy Dimoff – Speaker, National Expert, Author
Tim Dimoff’s engaging and thought-provoking presentations are sure to enlighten, inform and move you into taking action on such critical issues as workplace risks, substance abuse, security and societal threats. Feel free to contact Tim today to speak at your organization.