Categories
Mental Health Suicide

Suicide is Preventable When You Know the Signs

Suicide is a major, yet preventable mental health problem. According to the National InstituteLantern of Mental Health, “In 2007, suicide was the thirst leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24. Suicide accounted for 4140 deaths (12%) of the total 34,598 suicide deaths in 2007. ”

  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans. (CDC)
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide. (CDC, AAS)
  • There are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt. (CDC, AAS)

Though these numbers seem daunting, they are not a complete reflection on the youth of today or the way they manage or respond to stress or difficulty. These numbers do, however, indicate a significant problem that we need to be aware of so that we can act accordingly to prevent it.

 

Suicidal behavior is never a normal response to stress.

 

Some of the risk factors for suicide include:

  • Depression or other mental disorders
  • Substance abuse (often in combination with mental illness)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • History of physical or sexual abuse within the family system
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others

Other things to watch for in yourself or your loved ones include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, depressed mood, excessive guilt, low self-esteem
  • A loss of interest in family or social activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns (too much or too little)
  • Persistent anger, rage, need for revenge
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Problems at school: socially and academically
  • Feeling listless or irritable
  • Regular or frequent crying
  • Not taking care of yourself (not bathing regularly, etc)
  • Reckless and/or impulsive behaviors
  • Frequent headaches, stomachaches

Warning signs that someone may be thinking of committing suicide:

  • Always talking about or thinking about death
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Clinical depression — deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating — that seems to get worse
  • Loss of interest in things you or your loved one once cared about
  • Comments about being worthless, hopeless, helpless
  • Putting affairs in order, like changing or creating a will all of a sudden, or seeming to “tie up lose ends”
  • Comments like, “It would be better if I wasn’t here,” or “I want out.”
  • A sudden, and unexpected shift from deep sadness to being calm and happy.
  • Talking about suicide
  • Saying their goodbyes

 

It’s not uncommon for someone who is suicidal to have attempted suicide before. Recognizing some of these warning signs is the first step to helping someone you love or helping yourself. Asking for help is a sign of great courage and strength. It shows deep character and a fierce sense of survival. It is in the act of reaching our hands out that we open ourselves up to attaining help.

 

Categories
Bullying Mental Health Suicide

Suicide: Neither an Answer nor a Solution

Suicide so often “comes as a surprise” to those left behind, but in all honesty, the signs

were more than likely always there. The identifying factors that lead up to this type of tragedy are many, but in our busy, multitasking lives, we tend to overlook them or dismiss them as part and parcel to growing up, particularly the subtle hints. While I can’t speak for most kids or adults, I can tell you that the inner turmoil which occurs in the mind of someone  who’s suffering from suicidal thoughts is akin to severe emotional isolation—with it comes the delusion that one is “the other,” so different from those around them, they can’t even begin to integrate. Often times, those who are bullied struggle with suicidal ideation. Often times, no one even knows.

Of late, there have been several anti-bullying videos, songs, as well as organizations who are ardently amping up their efforts to bring awareness to this issue. It’s not that bullying in and of itself is tantamount to suicide, but those that are bullied often get to a place emotionally where they simply give up trying. If drugs and alcohol can’t numb the pain, or if cutting can’t raise the endorphins enough to eradicate one’s uncomfortable emotions, then suicide suddenly can look like an option. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the CDC, “Nearly five times as many males as females ages 15-19 died by suicide,” and “Just under six times as many males as females ages 20-24 died by suicide.” Risk factors for suicide attempts include things like:

  • Depression and other forms of mental illness
  • Addiction;
  • A family history of mental disorders or substance abuse;
  • Family history of suicide;
  • History of physical or sexual abuse;
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others (family members, friends, media)

It’s important to note, however, that suicide is an extreme reaction to stress. There are many people in and out of recovery who can check off many of the above factors but are not suicidal. Regardless, the risks are notable and should be viewed with great concern and scrutiny.

I remember being a teen and feeling isolated and very much like “the other.” The irony is, the one and only time I was directed to the suicide hotline, I wasn’t actually suicidal. I was just a surly teen. Later, however, the internal dialogue of self-loathing and lack of self-worth drove me to put myself in more and more unsafe places. It wasn’t until many 4th steps later when I realized my actions were not only a cry for help, they were, in fact a means of subversive suicidal ideation. As a teen, I needed my parents and didn’t have them, either due to their emotional unavailability or their absence. As a parent myself, I have learned that despite the adolescent, parent-hating bluster, I am needed—we are needed. A child who can come home and talk openly to a parent is, in my opinion, less likely to revert inward. Talking about being bullied, asking for help, and getting it, is invaluable, and we, as parents, need to provide the environment in which our kids can safely do that. If not, then we risk being left behind, drowning in grief and unanswerable questions.

**If you or someone you know is thinking about or talking about suicide,take it seriously. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is available 24/7.


Categories
Depression Mental Health

Depression in Adolescence

Image via Wikipedia

Depression affects teens as well as adults but is often missed partly because it can co-occur with the natural emotional ups and downs that are part and parcel to being a teenager. Simply put, growing up is a naturally stressful process, and that’s without any external conflicts acting as a contributing factor! The other organically occurring components fostering an environment for adolescent depression are things like hormones, and conflict with parents. When we include disturbing events like a breakup, death of a friend or relative, or difficulty at school, one’s susceptibility to depression increases.

Adolescence is a time for expressing independence, which sometimes means drawing a firm line in the sand with one’s parents in order to create autonomy. On occasion, those efforts can create a snag in parent/child communication. Puberty is inherent to the organic and experiential part of being human. It also means there is going to be infallibility and imperfection. Sometimes, as parents, we forget what it was like and spend too much time reacting and taking things personally and not enough time taking action. Think of it this way: if a teen is suffering from depression, they more than likely won’t tell you. In fact, they may be surreptitiously hoping that you take notice, because talking about it might be too scary or embarrassing.

According to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A) via the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): “About 11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18. Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increased as a child gets older.” And according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15-44.” Further, the NIMH site notes that since childhood behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, “it can be difficult to tell whether a child who shows changes in behavior is just going through a temporary ‘phase’ or is suffering from depression.

Since symptoms of adolescent depression differ slightly than those of an adult, it’s important to pay attention to any idiosyncrasies that may occur (sans getting over-analytical and paranoid). A child who’s depressed may complain of being sick, they may suddenly become excessively clingy, and they may often refuse to go to school; A teen, on the other hand, may sulk, get in trouble at school, be an overall grump, and feel a general sense of being misunderstood.

Symptoms of depression can include some or all of these factors:

  • Appetite changes (usually a loss of appetite but sometimes an increase)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Episodes of memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling upset, restless, and irritable
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, sad, or self-hatred
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once fun
  • Thinking or talking about suicide or death
  • Trouble sleeping, too much sleeping, or daytime sleepiness

Sometimes a person’s behavior may change, or there may be problems at home or school without any symptoms of depression:

  • Acting-out behaviors (missing curfews, unusual defiance)
  • Criminal behavior (such as shoplifting)
  • Irresponsible behavior
  • Poor school performance, grades dropping
  • Pulling away from family and friends, spending more time alone
  • Use of alcohol or other illegal substances

If you notice any of these behaviors lasting for more than two weeks, it’s time to seek help, particularly if these behaviors are beyond the normative rollercoaster ride consistent with adolescence.

For additional information and for documentation of sources for this article:


Depression in Children and Adolescents (Fact Sheet)
Use of Mental Health Services and Treatment Among Children (www.nimh.nih.gov)
Adolescent Depression (www.nlm.hih.gov)
Adolescent Depression (PubMedHealth: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
Adolescent Depression (https://health.nytimes.com)