Suicide in Adolescents

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Suicide in Adolescents

Suicide is intentional self-inflicted acts that end in death. Each year, an average of 30,000 suicide deaths occur in the United States and it is estimated that 6,000 of those suicides are committed by teenagers (CDC, 2002). Psychologists have identified the teenage years as one of the most difficult phases of human life. During this phase, new social roles are being learned, new relationships are being developed, bodily changes are occurring and decisions about the future are being made. Although this phase is often seen as a time to enjoy friendship and do other activities that adults would not usually do, it is a phase that causes adolescents a large amount of stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, hormone inconsistencies and other growing up-related fears. A lapse in one of these categories can result in suicidal tendencies, and often a teenager's suicide attempt may be a cry for help. Suicide among teenagers has become an epidemic that is only spreading throughout America and should be dealt with immediately. Most suicides can be prevented because the suicidal state-of-mind is usually temporary. This paper examines the causes of teenage suicide, the signs & risks of a person who is suicide prone, and the prevention measures that can be enforced to increase awareness.

Suicide has become the eighth leading cause of death in the general population (regardless of age, sex or race), the third leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, and the fourth leading cause of death for those between ten and fourteen. While the general incidence of suicide has decreased over the past 25 years, the rate for those in the adolescent group has tripled (CDC, 2002). This translates to approximately one teenage suicide occurring every two hours in America. Today, more teenagers are dying from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

Males are four times more likely to die from completed suicide than females; however, females are more likely than males to attempt and not complete suicide. Girls ten to fourteen years of age are hospitalized for attempted suicide at a rate five times that of boys. The gender difference in suicide completion is most likely due to the differences in suicide methods used (NIMH, 2000). On average, white males account for 72 percent of all suicides, while white males and females combined, account for over 90 percent of all suicides. In addition, suicide rates are generally higher than the national average in the western states and lower in the eastern and Midwestern states (CDC, 1997).

Firearms are now the leading method of suicide where nearly 3 of every 5 suicides in 2001 (57 %) were committed with a firearm. Among persons aged fifteen-nineteen years, firearm-related suicides accounted for more than 60 percent of the increase in the overall rate of suicide from 1981-1998 (NMHA, 2000) (see figure 1.1). Men are more likely to use firearms, which lead to a fatal outcome 78%-90% of the time, where girls and women are more likely to ingest poisons which can be treated if suicide is not successful (NMHA, 2000). Also, pills give people a chance to change their mind, whereas guns do not. Other common methods include hanging, an overdose of medication or automobile accidents (small proportion).

Studies show that about ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of death (NIMH, 1998). To prove that, the National Institute of Mental Health has recent scientific evidence which shows that almost all people who take their own lives have a diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder, and the majority has more than one disorder.

Suicidal behavior has numerous and complex causes. The biology...
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