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Teenage Suicide Risk is Real

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Teenage suicide is not a pleasant topic to consider, but it is necessary. This is the first of two posts addressing this subject with information from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Suicides among young people continue to be a serious problem. Each year in the U.S., thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds.

Teenagers experience strong feelings of stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, and other fears while growing up. For some teenagers, divorce, the formation of a new family with step-parents and step-siblings, or moving to a new community can be very unsettling and can intensify self-doubts. For some teens, suicide may appear to be a solution to their problems and stress.

Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. The child or adolescent needs to have his or her illness recognized and diagnosed, and appropriate treatment plans developed. When parents are in doubt whether their child has a serious problem, a psychiatric examination can be very helpful.

Many of the signs and symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of depression. Parents should be aware of the following signs of adolescents who may try to kill themselves:

  • change in eating and sleeping habits 
  • withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities 
  • violent actions rebellious behavior or running away 
  • drug and alcohol use 
  • unusual neglect of personal appearance 
  • marked personality change 
  • persistent boredom 
  • difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork 
  • frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc. 
  • loss of interest in pleasurable activities 
  • not tolerating praise or rewards.

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.