September is dedicated to suicide prevention. Therefore, I decided to write this article. As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I work with many parents who are worried that their teenager is depressed and may be suicidal. Many parents worry because suicide is a mental health issue for children and teenagers that often is ignored. In fact, suicide is no longer the third leading cause of death for children 10 to 18 years old, it is now the second leading cause of death for this age group (CDC). Also suicide is becoming more common in our society. If we look at the past few years Kate Spade, a designer, and Anthony Bourdain, the chef from CNN, both a profile people have committed suicide. Suicide is also common in soldiers who have been deployed over seas. Additionally, suicide is occurring more often in teenagers who have survived school mass shootings and for first responders for mass shootings and those dealing with Covid patients (CDC). Therefore, it is becoming common in our society, however, there are few resources available to people. Also the negative stigma associated with suicide prevents people and families from taking about the issue. I hope the information in this article helps you understand the issue of suicide. To start off with, I have included an article where six people describe their suicidal feelings and the help they need http://linkis.com/huffingtonpost.co.uk/AlJc2
In today’s society there has been a significant increase in depression, anxiety and suicide among teenagers and children. Depression and anxiety disorders are now at epidemic rates for children and teenagers (CDC). Additionally, as I stated above, suicide is now the second leading cause of death in children 10 to 18 years old. Yes 10 year old children are committing suicide daily. The increase is significant enough that Netflix was running a series about teenagers feeling suicidal. The show was called 13 Reasons Why. The suicide rate for teenagers has been increasing yearly for several years. It is increasing faster in teenage girls and is considered an epidemic. It is estimated 800,000 people a year commit suicide and approximately 25 times that attempt suicide (CDC). Again, suicide remains the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old and it rises every year and we are not providing resources (CDC).
In my practice I am seeing more and more children and teens reporting they feel depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. One of the main reasons I hear for these feelings is that children feel a great deal of pressure to succeed in school. I have kids in 5th grade and 6th grade worrying about grades. They are worried not because their parents will get mad because if they don’t get As, they are worried that they will not get into a good college and won’t get a good job and won’t be able to afford a house. They only feel like a success if they can make a lot of money. They don’t even consider how compassionate and caring many of them are and the good they offer our world. In their eyes, compassion is nothing if you are not driving a Mercedes.
This is a great deal for a 5th grader or 6th grader to worry about at their age. It is also a terrible way for them to value theirselves. This is how we create Bullies because compassion is looked at as a weakness. Also because money and possessions are becoming more important than people.
I also see middle school students and high school students involved in several sports and other activities such as Boy Scouts. The kids are feeling pressured to do extracurricular activities not for fun but for their resume. They are again concerned about getting into a good college and being a success. This pressure is not coming from parents either. It is pressure kids are now placing on themselves. Again they believe they need to grow up and make a lot of money to be happy and successful.
Recent studies are showing a correlation between lack of fun and time to relax with the increase in depression in children and teenagers. A study in Psychology Today discusses this issue. I have included the link so parents can read this study and think about it. Also so you can look at your children and talk with them. See if they are enjoying life or feeling overwhelmed because they need to succeed. Money pays the bills but doesn’t guarantee happiness https://www.psychologytoday.co.
Many parents are not sure what to look for and do not want to over react. If you notice these signs they are indicators that your teen may be feeling suicidal and needs to be assessed by a mental health clinician. The major warning signs are:
• Aggressive behavior
• Verbal outbursts
• Withdrawal from friends
• Writing or talking about suicide
• Dramatic mood swings
• Reckless behavior
• Refusal to engage in daily responsibilities
• Giving way personal items of worth such as jewelry or furniture
If you notice any of these signs don’t be afraid to ask your
teenager if they are feeling suicidal or thinking about suicide.
Many people have the misconception that if you ask someone
about suicide that you will cause them to think about suicide.
This is not true. By asking someone if they are feeling suicidal,
you are letting them know that it is safe for them to talk about their feelings,
including suicidal feeling. If someone is feeling suicidal it
is essential that they feel safe to talk about their feelings and
thoughts. Therefore, asking your teen if they are feeling
suicidal will not hurt them, it can help them to talk and possibly
save their life.
I understand that the topic of suicide is scary and something our
society denies and views it as there is something wrong with
anyone feeling suicidal. But the truth is, it is a mental health
issue and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is also an epidemic for
teenagers. If we want to prevent the number of suicides from
rising and help teenagers who are currently feeling suicidal,
we must talk openly about suicide and seek mental health care for
teenagers who are feeling suicidal.
Another factor related to this issue is family and friends. If someone commits suicide, family
and friends tend to feel guilty and ashamed. They blame themselves for the suicide and feel they
should have prevented it. However, if the person doesn’t express their feeling and there are few
resources, how do you prevent it? Also because of the huge negative stigma associated with
suicide, family and friends are embarrassed to talk about death. As a result, many families
and friends fail to get help after a suicide and their lives may be ruined for the rest of their lives.
We seldom consider the impact that suicide has on the family and friends. I have included a link
to an article which discusses the impact suicide has on family and friends
https://nypost.com/2018/06/06/after-kate-spades-death-think-of-the-survivors/. We need to
consider these issues and start to provide more resources for people feeling suicidal and family
and friends who survive a suicide.
Dr. Michael Rubino is psychotherapist who specializes working with children, teenagers, trauma survivors and first responders for over 25 years. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.