Examine the Issue of Teenage Suicide

Examine the Issue of Teenage Suicide

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.

Words Matter When Treating Mental & Physical Health

Words Matter When Treating Mental & Physical Health

Many mental health clinicians and many people who have mental health issues agree that there is a big difference between how physical health and mental health are treated. In fact, most people agree there is a strong negative bias regarding mental health. The bias is so strong that many people who have mental health issues often do not seek treatment for their condition because they are afraid of the stigma attached to mental health issues. For example, people are afraid if people know they have a mental health issue that they may not be able to get a job or they may not be able to get health insurance. They are also afraid that people in general will not want to socialize with them if people knew they had a mental health issue.

If we look at history it makes sense, why people are concerned about these issues. In the 1800’s people determined to have a mental health issue were locked away in mental health asylums. These places were dirty and filled with numerous physical diseases and the patients were not really treated. Basically it was a place for families to hide a family member with a mental illness until they died. This way it was a secret and the family did not have to bear the negative stigma of having mental illness in their family. The mental illness was viewed as a weakness and wealthy families did not want to marry into families where there was a mental illness. They were afraid of a child being born with a mental illness and ruining their upper class family image.

Now many people may think of course it was the 1800s, but this didn’t happen during modern times. In fact it did and still continues today. Many patients who have mental health issues do not receive adequate treatment for their mental health issues or their physical health either. In the 1960’s the book and film One Flew Over the Kokos Nest was released as a book and movie. The book and movie looked at how patients in mental health hospitals were over medicated and were treated more like animals than people.

In fact some people were becoming aware of the treatment in State Mental Hospitals and states such as California started passing laws in 1950 to close these hospitals. In fact, in 1967, Ronald Regan, the governor of California, passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, which virtually made involuntary hospitalization impossible and also resulted in most of the State Mental Hospitals being closed. While the people passing these laws may have thought they were doing something positive, they neglected to establish plans for people with mental health issues once these hospitals were closed.

As a result of there being no planning to very poor planning, many people with mental health issues we’re having even more difficulties finding treatment for their mental and physical health issues along with have severe issues finding housing and food. Many of these people ended up living on the streets and turning to illegal drugs as a way to treat their physical and mental health issues. When people try to establish treatment facilities in their areas, many of the neighbors would protest and object to any mental health treatment being established in their neighborhoods. They were afraid that the patients at these facilities would steal from their homes and that these patients posed a danger to their children. They were still operating under the stigma of the 1800’s. Almost a hundred years had passed but the belief that a mental illness was associated with a diseased, unclean person persisted.

One reason it has persisted is due to the language we use when discussing mental health compared to physical health. We still use the same language today and some people may think how something is phrased is not important, but it is very important. The way we discuss physical and mental health today makes physical health sound legitimate and important and the way we discuss mental health makes it sound like a dangerous condition that should be avoided. Additionally, the way we discuss mental health issues make them sound like no one ever really improves from these issues. They just learn how to cope in society.

Let’s look at some examples. If a patient has cancer, diabetes or even hepatitis, the person is referred to as the patient with cancer, the patient with diabetes or the patient with hepatitis. Now compare this to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or ADHD. The patients are referred to as the depressed person, the anxious person or the ADHD kid. The mental health diagnosis becomes their identities. With physical health the patient maintains their identity and there is some hope the person can be cured. With mental health issues, the diagnosis becomes the person’s identity. They are not a person struggling to overcome depression, no they are the depressed person. By making the diagnosis part of their identity many people including the patient assume they will always be depressed. The best they can do is to learn to cope with it.

If we make the mental health issue, the person’s identity we are treating them as less than human and giving up on a cure. I have seen this many times in my 25 years as a psychotherapist. Patients and their families assume they are the diagnosis and any thoughts or feelings they have are due to the diagnosis. This is very degrading and makes it very easy to place mental health at the bottom of the ladder. Therefore, less money is spent on research, patients and mental health clinicians are treated with less respect. Why pay attention to the patient or clinicians? They are not doing anything serious such as treating acne or allergies. If we continue to label patients with mental health issues as their diagnosis, how will we ever change the stigma. A patient dealing with depression is still a person, they are not their diagnosis. If a close family member dies and the person becomes sad, this is a normal human reaction. They are grieving the death just like other family members who do not deal with depression. Therefore, there sadness is not due to the depression, it is a normal emotional reaction.

Also if we look at research on depression, the antidepressants are designed to increase the amount of serotonin in the patient’s brain. The theory is the lack of serotonin creates the depression. We see the same thing in other medical conditions such as diabetes. In diabetes the patient’s body is not regulating the body’s insulin correctly. Therefore, if medical research is showing there is a similarity between how certain physical health issues and mental health issues occur and respond to medication in similar ways, why do we treat physical and mental health differently? More and more research is showing the bond between physical and mental health issues. Therefore, why do we continue to treat them differently? Mental health is equal to physical health and we should treat patients with physical and mental health issues the same. We also need to put the same amount of money into research and ensure insurance companies start treating physical and mental health issues the same. They can start by paying to treat both.

Bottom line the language we use regarding mental and physical health has a big impact how mental health and physical health issues are treated. We need to remember this fact and insist that everyone starts to treat mental and physical health issues equally.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. If you would like more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Eliminating the Mental Health Stigma

Eliminating the Mental Health Stigma

For many years many people have avoided seeking mental health care due to the negative stigma associated with it. However, this stigma has cost many teenage lives and the lives of veterans. Suicide for teens has recently moved from the third leading cause of death for children 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death (CDC). Veterans from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few of our recent wars, are more likely to develop PTSD and have significantly higher rates of suicide compared to the general population.

Now for many years many of us have accepted that there is no way to remove the stigma associated with mental health. However the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex started the non-profit HeadsTogether. One of their many goals is removing the negative stigma associated with mental health. Their efforts are paying off and they are changing how people view mental health in England.

Now Seth Moulton, a democratic candidate for President, has proposed a plan to expand mental health care for military and vets. His plan also includes providing mental health checkups for all teenagers and establishing a mental health emergency number similar to the 911 emergency system. You may not like what he stands for but take the time to read the mental health plan he proposed. It could save many teenagers from committing suicide. It could also identify possible teenagers who may be the perpetrators of a mass school shooting before it happens. It also would provide active military and veterans with the mental health support they need https://politi.co/2Kb3Chr via @politico.

It has the possibility of doing all of this and removing the stigma associated with mental health. This plan makes physical health and mental health equal. Research shows they are equal. Physical and mental health issues are tied together so why shouldn’t we treat them the same?

Dr. Michael Rubino is an adolescent psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teens and children. For more information about his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.