Understanding the Issue
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, resulting in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year. But deaths from youth suicide are only part of the problem, since more young people survive suicide attempts than actually die. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools found that 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reporting trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S.
According to the National Association of School Psychologists, depression is not a personal weakness, character flaw or a result of uninformed parenting. It is a mental illness that affects the entire person, changing the way he or she thinks, feels and acts. It often goes undiagnosed and untreated because symptoms are passed off as normal emotional and psychological changes that children experience as they grow.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255
- How does depression manifest itself in children?Depression in young people often looks different than it does in adults. There are several types.
Major Depression typically interferes with day-to-day functioning and is characterized by pervasive sadness, guilt, feelings of worthlessness and an inability to feel pleasure or happiness.
With Dysthymia, sadness tends to be less severe than with major depression, but the feelings continue for a year or longer, and often results in low self-esteem, hopelessness and sleeping and eating problems.
Bipolar disorder is marked by episodes of low-energy depression (sadness and hopelessness) and high-energy mania (irritability and explosive temper).
- What are signs of depression?Behavioral and physical signs of depression in children and adolescents are many and varied, and they often manifest at different ages. They can include: irritability, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, refusal to go to school, lethargy, sulking, acting out, extended periods of sadness, feigning illness, inability to concentrate, losing interest in favorite activities, digestive disorders, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns - insomnia or oversleeping, memory loss, phobias, sudden weight loss, and more.
- What are the most common warning signs of suicide?Some estimate as many as 80% of those thinking about suicide want others to be aware of their emotional pain and stop them from dying. A warning sign does not automatically mean a person is going to attempt suicide, but it should be taken seriously.
The warning signs that we pay particular attention to are: a prior suicide attempt, talking about suicide and making a plan, giving away prized possessions, preoccupation with death, signs of depression, hopelessness and anxiety, increased drug and alcohol use.
Source: Youth Suicide Prevention Program
A list of risk factors, warning signs and what to do when facing suicidal behaviors in youths.
A report from the CDC detailing the relationship between bullying and suicide and what can be done with current research findings.