Since the teenage years are among the most difficult years of life, it is not really a surprise that the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds – and the
fourth leading cause of death among 10 to 14 year olds – is suicide. The pressures that are put on the modern teenager can be overwhelming, as can the additional expectations from adults and peers alike. Some teenagers are not equipped to adequately handle these pressures without help.
Depression: the most common of the causes of teen suicide
According to the University of Texas, 75 percent of those who commit suicide are depressed. In teenagers, depression is considered a leading – if not the leading – cause of teen suicide. There are many factors that can cause depression in teenagers. Sometimes it is a chemical imbalance. Sometimes it influences outside of the teenager. And it can also be a manifestation of hopelessness and pessimism concerning future prospects.
Because depression can play such a large role in causing teen suicide, it is important to understand teen depression, and watch for the signs. Some of the signs of teen depression include:
•Long and/or frequent periods of sadness (“the blues”).
•Dramatic changes in weight, diet, sleep and friends.
•Feelings of worthlessness.
•Feelings of unexplained or unreasonable guilt.
It is important to help treat teen depression before it develops into a suicide attempt.
Other causes of teen suicide
Depression is not the only possible cause of teen suicide. There are others. It is important to note that some of the following can also cause depression, which can in turn lead to teen suicide. Suicide is rarely the result of one factor. Often there are different factors pressuring the teenager at the same time.
Substance abuse. This is a serious problem that can lead to teen suicide. The teenager may feel that it is too difficult to overcome substance abuse and then take steps to end it for good. Others commit suicide while they are not in their right mind, due to the influence of the substance.
Changes at home. Dramatic changes or problems at home can be a cause of teen suicide. Sometimes teenagers can’t handle the upheaval created by divorce. This can be a very depressing time for many teens. Sometimes, teenagers may feel as though the divorce is in some way their fault. This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame.
Other problems at home can include domestic violence. Even if the abuse is not aimed at the teenager, it can be desirable to escape. Some teenagers see death as the only way out of a difficult situation at home.
Financial problems are another factor of home life. A teenager may be unduly embarrassed by a financial lack. Or perhaps the loss of a job in the home prompts him or her to “help” the family by reducing the costs associated with the household.
It is important to make sure that teenagers and children understand that most problems at home are not their fault. These times should be seen as opportunities to teach teens the value of sticking together and weathering storms as a family.
Difficulty keeping up at school. Sometimes lack of success at school contributes to teen suicide. Teenagers are pressured to do well in school so that they will stand a better chance of college scholarships and other awards.
Additionally, extracurricular activities can be a cause of stress. Failure in sports may lead to being made fun of by peers. Additionally, some parents push their teens to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities in addition to their studies. While some teenagers thrive in such an environment, others can’t handle the pressure.
It is important to make it clear to your teenager that while you are proud of accomplishments, they do not form the basis of your love for your child. Make sure that your teenager knows that you love him or her for who he or she is – not for what he or she accomplishes at school.
Peer pressure. Recently, news stories have shared the existence of social networking sites that promote suicide pacts. Pictures of those who commit suicide are pictured, and suicide is acquiring a sort of dark glamour. Additionally, some are finding that they care encouraged by friends in these endeavors. Be on the look out for behavior that indicates that your teenager is getting the message that death by suicide is something “cool” to be sought after.
It is important to realize that different factors affect different people in a variety of ways. You should be aware of the pressures faced by your teenager. Challenges are important, but they need to be manageable. Make sure that your teen knows that you are willing to help, and that it is not necessary to try and do everything.
Centers for Disease Control, “teen suicides report” [online]
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), [online]