The term suicide is used to refer to self-inflicted death. Suicide is forbidden by many world religions and laws in many countries. Suicidal tendencies are increasing among teenagers, and this is regarded as a serious public health problem. Research has shown it is one of the leading causes of teenage related deaths. Reports from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) show that suicide accounts for approximately $34.6 billion in work loss and medical costs. Although depression is one of the factors leading to suicide, medical practitioners still find it hard to predict suicide attempts by depressed persons (Luxton, June and Fairall; Centre for Suicide Prevention). Furthermore, statistics have shown that males have a higher tendency of committing suicide when compared to their female counterparts. With regard to risk factors, there is a high risk of teenage suicide when teens have easy access to guns at home. Almost 60% of suicides occurring in the U.S. involve the use of a firearm (Luxton, June and Fairall). Overdoses are other popular methods for attempted and committed suicide. This paper will discuss warning signs of teenage suicide, risk factors of teenage suicide and prevention methods in a bid to understand and determine ways of controlling teenage suicide (King and Vidourek 16; Centre for Suicide Prevention).
Warning Signs of Teenage Suicide
Threatening or talking about killing oneself
Seeking means to kill oneself such as looking for firearms and buying prescription pills
Writing or talking about dying or suicide
Feeling rage, hopeless, angry or vengeful
Engaging in reckless behavior or risky activities without being fearful
Increasing drug use or alcohol
Feeling agitated, anxious or sleepless
Withdrawing from family, friends or any other persons
Having no purpose in life
Dramatic changes in mood (Centre for Suicide Prevention 4)
Teenage Suicide Risk Factors
Most of the teenagers who have succeeded in committing suicide are reported to have had serious psychiatric problems, including substance abuse and depressive disorders. Major depression is the most predominant condition. The risk of a person's potential for committing suicide is linked to a history of anxiety, depression and current stress caused by a mental disorder (Otsuki, Kim and Peterson 2). Although people with mental disorders have a high risk of contemplating suicide, disorders featuring poor impulse control and anxiety increase the probability of actually committing suicide. A majority of female teenage suicides are associated with affective disorders. In male teenagers, substance abuse combined with affective disorders is one of the main risk factors for suicide (Luxton, June and Fairall).
Previous Attempts of Suicide
A significant number of teenage suicide victims make several suicide attempts before committing suicide. Anxiety increases the probability of youths making repeated attempts of suicide. The risk of a successful suicide increases with the number of successive suicide attempts. In male victims, the risk of succeeding in a suicide attempt based on previous failures is higher than in female victims (Otsuki, Kim and Peterson 2).
Availability of Lethal Means
Youth suicide is mainly committed using firearms. Therefore, the availability and easy access to guns at home increases the probability of teenage suicide. Reports have shown that firearm suicides occur mostly in homes than in any other setting Centre for Suicide Prevention 7).
Poor interpersonal and coping skills limit the youth's problem-solving abilities and make opt for suicide as their only option. Furthermore, when youths turn to substance use to be able to cope with their problems, they become more prone to committing suicide (Luxton, June and Fairall).
Stressful Events in Life
Many adolescents who make suicide attempts or succeed in committing suicide do so because of the negative events in their life. Some of these events are experiences victims have gone through when growing up such as sexual abuse, physical abuse and separation of parents among others. Other events in life increase the risk of suicide such as breaking up with a spouse, breaking the law, punishment at school and being victimized by peers (Centre for Suicide Prevention).
Teenage suicide can also be attributed to family factors such as poor relationships in the family, a history of suicidal behaviors and parental psychopathology (substance abuse and depression). There are studies associating youth suicide with genetic elements in the victims' parents (Turner 3).
Research regarding the link between youth suicide and socioeconomic status is currently inconclusive. A victim with low socioeconomic status is more prone to suicide if it prevents them from getting treatment for their mental conditions (Otsuki, Kim and Peterson 4). This is because if left untreated, substance abuse and depression disorders are the major causes of suicide among adolescents.
Latinos born in the U.S. have a greater risk of attempting suicide than those who are foreign born. Immigrant youths are more prone to stress due to acculturation. Additionally, studies show that the link between psychopathology and suicidal behavior, and drug abuse and suicide behavior determine the extent of acculturative stress (Luxton, June and Fairall).
Biological Risk Factors
Adolescents with low serotonin levels are prone to suicidal behaviors. Studies have also shown that SSRI exposure increases the risk of attempted and committed suicide among teenagers (Otsuki, Kim and Peterson 4). Other reports show that victims with abnormal neurotrophin have a higher tendency of contemplating suicide.
Gay, bisexual and lesbian youth have a higher tendency of committing suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Discrimination causes this group of adolescents to fall into depression and makes them entertain suicidal thoughts. Bisexuals also suffer from maladaptive behaviors like victimization, drug use and fighting, which makes them contemplate and attempt suicide.
The Internet and Teenage Suicide
A lot of information on suicide is available online through social media. Many pro-suicide websites providing facts on suicide have emerged. Therefore, obtaining methods of committing suicide online has become very easy. The growth in internet users can also be associated with the increased suicide rates (Luxton, June and Fairall).
There are several ways social media has contributed to pro-suicide behavior. Cyberbullying is one good example of how social media leads to teenage suicide. Cyberbullying is when an adolescent or child is repeatedly and intentionally threatened, harassed or embarrassed by another adolescent. Threats can be executed through texting, email, instant messaging and networking sites. Research has shown that the youths bullied online stand a higher chance of suicide ideation, attempts and completion. Victims of cyberbullies become depressed, lonely, hopeless and have a decreased sense of self-worth (Centre for Suicide Prevention 7). Due to the pervasive nature of phones and the internet, it is hard for the victims of cyberbullying to escape from their tormentors. In serious cases, victims will fight back, and when unable to succeed, they fall into depression that leads them to commit suicide (Centre for Suicide Prevention 7).
Cyber Suicide Pact
A suicide pact refers to an arrangement reached by 2 or more persons to commit suicide at a certain date and using the same means. A suicide pact developed through the internet is known as a cyber suicide pact. Traditional suicide pacts take place between individuals who are well acquainted like friends or couples. The main difference between traditional and cyber suicide pacts is that the online pacts are made between complete strangers. Chat rooms and online forums provide a means for people to share feelings with like-minded online users. The first case of a cyber suicide pact was in the year 2000, in Japan (Luxton, June and Fairall). It is now a common way of committing suicide in Japan. South Korea had the largest number of suicide rates as of the year 2005. Studies show that cyber suicide pacts accounted for the majority of suicides during that period. Though the issue of cyber suicide pacts has become an international problem, more research is required to gain an understanding of the impact of social media on online suicide pacts (Luxton, June and Fairall).
Unregulated Online Pharmacies
Currently, it is very easy to access descriptions on how to commit suicide. In the U.S., many unregulated online pharmacies have popped up to make a kill by selling pills without prescriptions. Despite measures to regulate and accredit online pharmacies through institutions like the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the war on unregulated online pharmacies dealing with counterfeit drugs is far from over (Luxton, June and Fairall).
When a person lives in a community where the rates of suicide are high, their probability of committing suicide is higher. This is encouraged by the coverage of suicides in mass media like television reports and newspaper articles. Adolescents are highly influenced by suicide stories, and this influence diminishes after they attain 24 years significantly. Social media may boost the risk of media contagion effect among the youth. A recent study showed that many youths are exposed to content related to suicide through their friends, family and traditional media such as newspapers. Among all these modes of information, most of the youths obtain suicide-related information from the internet (Luxton, June and Fairall). The study showed that there was a strong link between suicide-related content on websites and suicidal ideation.
Video sharing websites have also played a significant role in increasing suicidal tendencies. In 2005, the popularity of YouTube made suicide seem normal and reinforced self-injuries tendencies among the youth. The youth can easily gain access to suicidal and non-restricted videos online.
Online forums are popular for spreading information on how one can die through suicide. In 2008, Japan experienced 220 cases of individuals who attempted to commit suicide through hydrogen sulfide gas, and 208 people died during these incidents. These suicides were attributed to the posting of gas-related suicide methods online (Luxton, June and Fairall). Paramedics, caregivers and family members were injured while some even died while trying to save the victims. Although the internet has played its share in increasing the rates of suicides, it has also been an essential tool in helping the victims of suicides. Online support forums and YouTube videos have been used to encourage attempted suicide victims and educate parents and the community about the menace.
Since youths spend most of their time in school, the schools are the ideal institutions for suicide intervention programs. In schools, intervention should seek to increase the awareness of both students and school staff concerning suicide warning signs, risk factors and intervention strategies (King and Vidourek 16). School-based intervention initiatives should instruct students on problem-solving and coping skills. They should also strive to address risky tendencies and behaviors among the students.
The ideal suicide intervention initiative should include:
Primary intervention that includes skill-building, education and promoting protective factors
Secondary intervention that includes early detection and appropriate intervention
Tertiary prevention includes follow-up of teen attempted suicide or teen depression cases (King and Vidourek 16...
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