Op-Ed: Suicide — Killing the teens & young people in America

Posted Mar 10, 2013 by Christopher Wager
Teen and youth suicide is rising at an alarming rate while parents, schools officials, and experts are scrambling to learn why.
New York police truck parked on the street
New York police truck parked on the street
America - Case study: Thirteen year boy who we’ll call Neil after counseling, both in and out of school, for what is described by his mother as behavioral problems has reported thoughts of suicide and bringing harm to a family member, his step-father.
Neil comes from a broken home, with the mother remarrying and father in his life part-time. In addition, Neil has a maternal grandmother who helps care for him. After his mother remarried his step-father began to play a role in disciplinary decisions, producing a plan of action without receiving any instruction or advice from any outside source which would prove to be most beneficial to his development.
This “Plan” included the parents confiding in the grandmother, “They must break his will,” in order to get Neil to comply with their demands. Other details of their plan include having him doing a number of chores such as the laundry for the entire family, permanently grounding him from any activities in which he may derive any entertainment or pleasure, and demanding he sit for hours doing nothing.
Neil’s life has gone on this way for a least two years. Not only have these parents implemented this, “behavioral modification,” at their home, they have insisted the grandmother follow it as well, which she has resisted, leading the parents to confront her with an ultimatum. Currently, Neil is on a 24 hour suicide home watch.
Neil has had undiagnosed until recently ADHD behavioral issues, since he was young. Acting out, not listening, and leading to trouble in school. However, his mother’s disciplinary tactics, after some investigation would lead one to determine they have in fact played a major role in Neil’s current state.
The greatest conflict in the home is between the step-father and step-son creating a dynamic of jealousy and competition for Neil’s mother’s attention and love. The step- father’s actions demonstrate a lack of maturity and insecurity, which he clearly blames his step-son for.
This heavy-handed approach of discipline has left Neil with few options for escape from their tyranny even for a little while, which under most any other circumstances would have never lead to thoughts of taking his own life as the only means of relief from the tortures of his life.
The only way out:
America’s young people with thoughts of suicide all having their own unique circumstances leading them all to the same conclusion: Suicide being in their mind a sane decision to what they feel to be an insane situation.
Neil’s story is not to say all parents are bad if they have a troubled teen with thoughts of suicide. Many people honestly feel they are trying to do the, “right thing” by their child, even if it is viewed by others as strange, too harsh, or too lenient. Parenting is by the greatest part, subjective.
As we shall see there are many factors involved in kids thinking of or taking their own lives. According to a paper released by Wexner Medical Center offers a shopping list of common pressures today’s teens are facing such as changes in their body, the ability to think about things in new ways influence a teenager's problem solving and decision making abilities. Along with feelings of stress, confusion, fear, uncertainty, and pressure to succeed.
This insightful report goes on to say how other events in the teens life can have a stress-fully negative effect on the teen. It describes these events as divorce, the loss of a friend or loved one, moving to a new place, problems in school, and depression interpreted by the teen as being too difficult to deal with or even embarrassing.
To break it down:
For every 25 teens who attempt suicide, one succeeds. The most disturbing statistic is that this ratio is even higher in younger kids. The report goes on to say depression is one of the most influential conditions contributing to teen and youth suicides along with substance abuse, aggressive (or disruptive behaviors.) and boys are four times more likely to die from suicide than females. However, females are more likely to attempt suicide than males, with guns being used in over half of the suicides.
In addition to the above influential conditions contributing to teen and youth suicides, other factors often in combination of each other play a role in kids taking or wanting to take their own lives. Such as one or more diagnosable mental, impulsive behaviors, family history of mental or substance abuse disorder, family history of suicide, violence in the family, including physical and sexual, or verbal/emotional abuse, prior suicide attempts, firearms in the home, incarceration, exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, including family and peers.
The Wexner Medical Center states many of the warning signs of perhaps suicidal feelings or thoughts are also signs of depression in young people. Wexner gives a list of things to be aware of in order to be able to identify these warning signs. Beginning with a change in a teen’s or young person’s eating or sleeping patterns, If a child has lost interest in actives, suddenly pulls back from family and friends, starts using drugs or alcohol, stops caring about their appearance, starts to engage in risk taking, starts becoming interested in death and dying. If the child complains about new aches and pains not associated with any illness which are often linked to emotional stress such as stomachaches, headaches, or always being tired. He or she gives away favorite possessions; throws away important belongings. The youth may become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression, may express bizarre thoughts, or writes one or more suicide notes. The list includes verbal warning by the child as well. Using phrases for example;
"I want to kill myself," or "I'm going to commit suicide."
"I won't be a problem much longer," or "If anything happens to me, I want you to know ...."
The report explains these threats of suicide and warning signs are a cry for help and should always be taken seriously. As many of the warning signs for an attempt at suicide are linked to depression, these are the warning signs of the condition of depression: feelings of sadness or hopelessness, declining school performance, loss of pleasure/interest in social and sports activities, sleeping too little or too much, changes in weight or appetite, nervousness, agitation or irritability, and substance abuse. As we can see many of these warning signs mirror what the experts are calling signs of a teen or young person thinking about taking their own life. It is safe to say undiagnosed depression has the possibility of leading the child down the road to suicide.
Getting help:
Any indication a teen or young person is in trouble should be reported to the child’s physician, so a specific plan of treatment can be designed for the child. Based on the factors of the teen’s age, overall health condition and medical history, seriousness of the child’s attempt, a teen or young person’s tolerance to specific medications, procedures, or mental health therapy and the realistic expectations of future suicide tempts, and of course, the opinion of the child’s loved ones.
Stepping away from suicide (the parent)
Steps parents can take to help their child before the unthinkable happens. Such as:
 Keep medications and firearms away from children.
 Get your child help (medical or mental health professional).
 Support your child (listen, avoid undue criticism, remain connected).
 Become informed (library, local support group, Internet)
Stepping away from suicide (teens and young people)
Steps kids can take to help someone in trouble.
 Take your friend's behavior and discussion of suicide seriously.
 Encourage your friend to seek professional help, accompany if necessary.
 Talk to an adult you trust. Don't be alone in helping your friend.