September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month. As the recent spate of celebrity suicides have shown us, suicide does not discriminate. It affects people from all walks of life, and of all ages. But there's something even more tragic about a teenager or young person taking their own life.
What the Statistics Tell Us
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 40,000 people commit suicide every year. That's equal to 1 person every 13 minutes.
The Jason Foundation provides us with the youth figures that continue to rise:
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for middle- and high-school-age children. These are kids between the ages of 12 and 18 years.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth, between the ages of 18 and 22 years.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death, overall, for youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years.
- An average of over 3,041 suicide attempts happen every day from children in grades 9 through to 12. And that's just the ones we know about.
- 4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide have shown clear warning signs and symptoms.
What Are the Warning Signs of Teen Suicide?
There are many subtle ways that a teen can let you know that they are thinking about committing suicide. Some are more obvious than others. The following is a list of some of the more common signs:
- Making statements about feeling worthless, helpless, hopeless, and talking about suicide
- Deepening depression, out-of-character behavior, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Preoccupation with death, exhibiting self-destructive or risky behavior
- Calling or visiting the people they love, giving prized possessions away, and planning for when they're gone
Although nobody is immune to the risk of teen suicide, there are certain groups of youth that are at higher risk:
- Gay and lesbian youth
- Youth with learning disabilities
- Youth with perfectionist personalities
- Neglected, abused, or molested youth
- Youth with depression, low self-esteem, and a genetic disposition towards suicide
- Loners, bullies, and victims of bullying
- Youth who are in serious trouble such as crime
- Youth from families that have a history or substance abuse, violence, or divorce
What You Can Do to Prevent Teen Suicide
Talking about suicide is not easy, but as a society, the more we talk about it, the easier it will get. If you suspect someone you love is considering suicide, there are some things you can do to help.
- Trust your instincts and ask them how they are, and actively listen to their answers. Acknowledge how they are feeling and find out if they have made a plan regarding how and when they will do it.
- Help them to get help. Encourage them to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK or even dial the number for them. Alternatively, help them to text the Crisis Text Line on 741741.
- Stay in touch. Once the immediate crisis has passed, your teen still needs your support. Check in with them again and again to let them know you care and are taking them and their feelings seriously.
If you believe your child, friend, or someone else you love is in immediate danger of killing themselves, dial 911.
Suicide Education and Suicide Prevention Resources
Whether you're experiencing suicidal thoughts yourself, or someone you love is, there is help available. The following are three of the top suicide prevention and education resources available on the internet. There are others, but these are focused on teens.
The Jason Foundation
The Jason Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that was founded by Clark Flatt, after his 16- year-old son, Jason, committed suicide.
Their tagline is keeping more than dreams alive and a quick look around their website shows the valuable work this organization is doing. We recommend downloading their 2018 Suicide Prevention Awareness Month package.
The website offers other helpful and practical advice about how to help someone who is feeling suicidal and the warning signs to look out for. They offer support programs for teachers and parents that don't go into treatment options but rather teach people when and how to get help for someone in need.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
This volunteer-run organization was established in 1987 by a group of people who had all lost someone to suicide.
The ASFP focuses on funding scientific research into suicide, educating the public about suicide prevention and mental health, advocating for public policies regarding suicide prevention and mental health, and supporting survivors of suicide loss.
They offer many training programs on suicide prevention, depression, and other mental health issues. Their website has pages where people can donate money, become an advocate, or participate in fundraising activities.
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project was created after three filmmakers made a movie about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. When the creators looked for real support for lesbian and gay teens, they found nothing and set up this nonprofit organization.
The Trevor Project offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth, from trained counselors. They run workshops for youth and educators and their website has several pages for the youth to read and learn about suicide warnings and signs.
Other Suicide Prevention Resources
- Mental Health First Aid
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- Real Warriors, Real Battles, Real Strength
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
Helping to Prevent Teen Suicide
If you believe that someone you know is in immediate danger of committing suicide, dial the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or dial 911.
Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital offers acute and outpatient mental health services for children between the ages of 5 and 17 years and for adults 18 years and older.
Contact us today if you, or your loved one, is experiencing suicidal thoughts. Our admissions and intake specialists are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.