Teen Suicide

An Act of Desperation or Escapism? 

  • A classmate of mine recently died consuming poison because his parents refused to get him a car on his birthday. 

  • A newspaper report ran stories of a young 15 year old girl hanging herself to death because she failed in her tenth grade exams.

  • Yet another teenager killed himself because his girlfriend ditched him.

These are not stray incidents but a fast spreading phenomena called the "teenage suicide". The rate of suicide for this age group has nearly tripled since 1960, making it the their leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college age youth. Teen suicide is one of the major causes for concern among the parents of teens and many organizations dealing with it have sprung up over the years.

Why does it happen?

Teens need adult guidance more than ever to understand all the emotional and physical changes they are experiencing. When teens' moods disrupt their ability to function on a day-to day basis, it may indicate a serious emotional or mental disorder that needs attention - adolescent depression. Studies show that suicide attempts among young people may be based on long standing problems triggered by a specific event. Suicidal adolescents may view a temporary situation as a permanent condition. Feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt can lead to impulsive, self-destructive acts. So it is not the car denied or the exam failed that leads to their self destructive act, rather it is months of pent up emotions which is triggered by any one incident. It is the proverbial one drop too much for the cup to hold13/3/01. It is also found that many teens who commit suicide have a low self -esteem about themselves. And don't be fooled. The one's with a poor self-esteem aren't the introverts who hardly open their mouth. It is as likely to be the chirpy vivacious teenager who is the heart and soul of any gathering. Teens have this inimitable quality of burying their emotions within themselves till they reach bursting point and commit irrational acts. It is a fact that if teens shared their problems half of the suicides could be prevented. Most of the problems faced by teens are grossly exaggerated in their emotionally wrought state. None of them are grave enough to lose a life over. If this is recognized and understood teenage suicide can be eliminated to a large extent

I Warn You 

It is an acknowledged fact that four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. It is not that they wake up one fine day and decide to end their lives. the thought of ending their lives is niggling somewhere at the back of their mind and gaining importance day by day.

Pay attention to these warning signs and you could be stopping your teen from taking his life: 

  • Suicide threats, direct and indirect – Don't shrug it off as one of the things teens say. If a teen is repeatedly threatening to end his or her life he may mean it.

  • Obsession with death – Look out if your teen seems abnormally pre-occupied with his death. Though a certain amount of brooding about death is normal, if your teen seems to be constantly thinking about his death it is a warning signal. Classic behavioral examples are drawing up lists of people to be invited for their funeral, drawing up a will, writing their own eulogy, talking about the reactions of various people on their death. These are not healthy signs and must be attended to immediately.

  • Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death – If your teen is suddenly spouting verses relating to death be warned. More than nay philosophical bent of mind, it is more likely that he is depressed and thinking of taking his life. 

  • Dramatic change in personality or appearance – Many teens exhibit a dramatic change in personality before they take the final step. SO be wary if your teen is abnormally quiet or even more boisterous than usual. You never know which way they lean. Another thing to look out for is unnatural show of affection. If those spontaneous hugs and kisses are more frequent than usual, there might be something fishy underfoot.

  • Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or refection – Many teens take their life out of an overwhelming feel of guilt and shame. A classic example is the string of suicides after the state exam results are out. Though a certain amount of regret and depression after any failure is long, if your teen seems to be giving more importance to it than warranted, be warned.

  • Changed eating or sleeping patterns – A large number of teens show changes in eating and sleeping patterns, If a teen is sleeping too much or seems to be an insomniac or is gobbling away at food or becoming a virtual anorexic, look out. This might be his/her way of calling out for help. 

  • Severe drop in school performance.

  • Giving away belongings.

How can I help?

  • Offer help and listen. Encourage depressed teens to talk about their feelings. Listen, don't lecture. It is a proven fact that by proper listening and encouragement even teens who have the pills in their hand can be motivated to live again.

  • Trust your instincts. If it seems that the situation may be serious, seek prompt help. Break a confidence if necessary, in order to save a life. A life is more important than a confidence and the person concerned will thank you for it later. It is a distressing factor that most teens regret taking their life when it is too late to do anything.

  • Pay attention to talk about suicide. Ask direct questions and don't be afraid of frank discussions. Silence is deadly! 

  • Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen's life - family, friends and teacher. 

If it is You
If it is you who is harboring thoughts of suicide, don't be ashamed. All of us think of ending our life one time or another. Talk to a parent, a friend or someone you trust about your feelings. Alternatively call a help line and speak out. Many organizations offer help without even seeking your identity. 

The most important thing is "ASK FOR HELP". You are worth it.


More by :  Smitha Chakravarthula

Top | Teens

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