Suicide rates have been on the rise over the years, but this is especially true for teens.
According to The Huffington Post, suicide rates have shot up by nearly double for teenage girls aged 15-19 since 2007. In 2015, the suicide rate was the highest it has been for this age group in 40 years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
For teenage boys and young men, the rate rose by 30% over the same period.
Teen Suicide Facts: The Sobering Reality
There are more sobering facts about teen suicide that make it clear this is a cause for national concern:
- According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicide is the second most common cause of death for teens and young adults aged 10-24.
- 90% of teens who commit suicide have a mental health problem.
- In 2015, in the U.S., there were twice as many suicides as homicides, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
- For adolescents and teens aged 10-14, suicide was the leading cause of death in 2015.
- Males are four times more likely to commit suicide than females.
- Among adults who report having serious thoughts of taking their own life, the highest percentage belongs to young adults age 18-25.
What Are the Reasons for Current Teen Suicide Statistics?
There are many reasons why suicide rates are climbing among teens.
It’s hard to pinpoint just one because a variety of factors can contribute to suicide – ones like mental illness, depression, and bullying.
Rising Depression Rates
Depression, in particular, is worrisome because it can so often go undetected and untreated. This is due to the stigma around the disease as well as the fact that many teens are afraid to ask for help. This keeps young people from getting the treatment they need.
Teens with suicidal thoughts who don’t get treatment can remain isolated, which can leave them more likely to commit the act.
Cyberbullying and Social Media
Another factor in rising teen suicide rates has to do with social media and cyberbullying.
The internet plays a bigger role in teens’ social lives than ever before. Interactions and sometimes even entire relationships happen through email, social media posts, texts, and chatting.
When bullies hound kids at school and then follow them home via their computers, the consequences can be harmful.
Plus, cyberbullying is becoming more common by the year. According to a 2014 study, about 43% of kids have reported being bullied online. Another 70% report having witnessed some form of bullying on the internet, while 68% think that it’s a serious issue.
Bullying leads to lowered self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, isolation, and depression – all factors that can contribute to a teen taking their own life.
Teen Suicide Prevention: What Are the Warning Signs?
Thankfully, suicide is usually preceded by warning signs. If you notice your teen acting differently than usual or is displaying any of the following behaviors, it’s time to intervene.
You should be concerned if your teen:
- Isolates themselves from others
- Withdraws from activities they used to enjoy
- Is displaying anxious or agitated behavior
- Talks about death or expresses a wish to die
- Engages in behavior that’s dangerous or harmful to themselves (i.e. drug use, unprotected sex, reckless driving)
- Makes plans or preparations to “put their business in order,” such as giving away their possessions or visiting loved ones
- Changes their appearance (i.e. if a person who is usually put-together suddenly looks sloppy and doesn’t care)
- Has mood swings and sadness that don’t go away
- Has trouble sleeping
- Threatens to commit suicide (according to WebMD, 50-75% of people who think about committing suicide will warn someone close to them before they follow through)
Where to Get Help
Any teen who threatens suicide should be taken seriously. If your teen is having suicidal thoughts or has displayed any of the above warning signs, there are a few things you can do:
- Don’t leave them alone until you get them help
- Ask them straight out if they are depressed and having suicidal thoughts
- Reassure them that there are people who care and who will support them through their time of trouble
- Let them know depression will not last forever, and that it’s treatable
- Let them talk about their feelings freely without judgment and with empathy
- Encourage the person to talk to their parents, a guidance counselor, a teacher, a mentor, or any adult whom they trust
- If you’re that person, take action to help the teen get professional and medical help, and don’t delay
- If you’re at a loss, call a teen suicide hotline – they’ll provide free support, resources, and more for teens who are suicidal (one example is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)