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Causes of Teen Suicides

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teenagers between the age group 15 to 19. What is it that drives them to quit life? Let's have a look.
Dr. Maisie M Apr 10, 2019
According to a study, more than 90% teens who attempted suicide said little or no parental care and understanding led them to take this extreme step.
Adolescence has always been a period of confusion with varying temperaments where teens have to deal with academic, social, and individual pressure. These seldom play fair with teenagers. Additional stress factors like poor performance, fear of punishment, rivalry, and violence in the family, can make them feel there is nothing to live for.
While most of them surpass this rough voyage with courage, there are others for whom these issues seem to be like the end of the world. For those with low self-esteem, getting rid of life seems much easier than a troublesome journey, as thoughts of being unwanted and constant depression lead them to take extreme steps like suicide.
Teen suicides are like precious lives turned futile causing an irreparable loss to the individual as well as his close concerns. However, if the causes and the underlying triggers are understood and well-recognized by family and friends, it can be curbed and a tragedy can be averted.

Causes of Teen Suicide

Minors choose death because suffering becomes intolerable as per their perception. Peer pressure, social and academic pressure, turmoil in the family can lead to emotional breakdown, feeling of loneliness, rejection, failure to handle loss, and poor performance.
They feel that there is little hope for change, improvement, or possibility of a better future with the life that they experience. Most of the teen suicidal attempts are the resultant of their inability to handle depression effectively, though there are many other factors that can lead one to take such an extreme step.

Genetics and Family History

Most of the time, a history of suicidal tendencies in the family or an attempted suicide may be responsible for teen suicides. Researchers find that genes are also responsible for such thoughts and behavior, which can be passed down across generations.
Research also finds that, children with low levels of serotonin (a hormone in the brain that balances mood) are prone to emotional disturbances, aggressive behavior, and suicide.

Disharmony in the Family

Major fights in the family and divorce of parents can emotionally drain the child. He/she may not be able to accept or balance the situation, leading to depression.

Unhealthy, Abusive Relationships or a Breakup

Teen years can be most stressful and in a way, relationships or breakups can affect the emotional stability. Dealing with a heartbreak can be tough for them. Low self-esteem and depression too, lands teenagers in abusive and unhealthy relationships, which may lead to suicide.

Alcohol or Drug Abuse

Children resort to alcohol and drugs to lighten their worries and problems. However, in no time the addiction leaves them feeling vulnerable and helpless, leading to suicidal thoughts.

Feelings of Anger and Guilt

Stress and feelings of rejection, loneliness, feeling unwanted, can affect the child mentally. This may result in aggressive behavior or extreme mood swings. Often the guilt of doing something wrong, or hurting someone may force the teen to end his/her life.

Physical or Mental Disorders

A psychological disorder, mental illness, or depression can trigger suicidal thoughts in teenagers. As per data, 95 percent people had an ongoing mental illness or disorder, when they committed suicide.

Poor Academic Performance

Family pressure, expectations to excel, and competition put pressure on teens. They may not be able to live up to these expectations and hence suicide may appear to be the only solution to their problems.

Sibling Rivalry

The introduction of a new member in the family may not be taken sportingly by the child. Sudden shift of love and care towards the sibling may not be taken positively by the child. The very thought of sharing the family's love can also make the teen feel neglected and unwanted. Hatred towards the sibling may also lead to emotional imbalance.

History of Suicide and Exposure

If the teen has known a person, friend, or family member who has committed suicide, it can push an already depressed and disturbed child towards talking this extreme step. Fictional stories, news, and any other source that exposes the child to a suicide attempt may be risky.

Physical and Emotional Abuse

A troubled childhood, mental, physical, or sexual abuse and harassment can affect their emotional balance. In most cases they cannot deal with the aftermath and trauma.

Experience of a Personal Loss

Teenagers may not be able to cope with the sudden loss of a dear one, which may give rise to suicidal thoughts and feelings in them.

Social and Other Issues

Those who are bisexual or homosexual may fall prey to suicidal thoughts mainly due to social pressure, status, community, and family issues. Stress-related factors like exposure to a new or uncomfortable environment, problem adjusting in a social circle, bullying, and peer pressure can also lead to anxiety and depression.

Notice the Red Alerts

To prevent and curb suicide, it is important for parents and friends to notice and understand the symptoms and signs. Counsel the child before it drives him to take an extreme decision. Expression of feelings related to depression and worthlessness definitely means something is seriously wrong.
These symptoms may be present together or in varied combinations, and can be addressed effectively if noticed earlier. Check for these signs:
  • Complaining of sadness, fatigue, and emptiness
  • Statements and jokes about death and suicide
  • Low self-esteem statements like "nobody cares", "I am worthless" or "better off dead"
  • Plans about suicide, by writing suicidal letters, meeting loved and dear ones
  • Writes about death in letters, songs, or poems
  • Extreme change in behavior and personality, risky and life-threatening behavior
  • Loss of interest in fun and recreation, and other activities that were interesting earlier
  • Neglecting personal appearance and hygiene
  • Not responding to praise, compliments, and positive efforts
  • Social withdrawal and staying aloof most of the time
  • Aggressive expressions of hatred and anger, nervousness and irritability
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders, indigestion, and major changes in weight
  • Trouble concentrating in studies and work
  • Signs of hallucination and weird thoughts
  • Physical signs like body aches and pains
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Throwing away important and loved possessions
  • Verbal hints like "I won't cause a problem much longer" or, "I may not be around for a long time"
Clear warning signs precede suicides in more than 90% cases, and hence should never be neglected. In case you notice any of the mentioned signs, do not hesitate to bring up the issue, even if it is a doubt.

How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal

Helping a suicidal teen starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. In case of any doubt, parents and friends should not hesitate to talk to them and ask questions directly. Chances are he/she will open up to you and look up to you for help with assurance.
Immediate consultation with a mental health professional is a must in extreme to moderate cases. Most of the time the cause is depression, however depending on the age, sensitivity, psychological illnesses (if any), overall health, nature, severity, and the number of symptoms and signs, a treatment can be chalked out.
An in-depth psychological evaluation with appropriate medications followed up in a timely manner is necessary. Local support groups and hotline numbers should be made available to teens so that they can reach someone in emotional crisis.
  • Along with treatment, the primary need is to care, value, and respect the child.
  • Most teen suicides can be prevented by effective communication and psychotherapy.
  • Do not leave the child lonely, and let there be more than one person he can turn to for help.
  • Never take their talks lightly, there are many instances where the suicidal person has given hints to a friend or family before taking the extreme step. So, don't think if they talk they will never do it.
  • One should pay attention to the post-depressive period, when the individual looks near normal, yet it could be an unsafe period.
  • Assure him that such feelings are temporary and will surely pass.
  • Keep weapons like guns, blades, and medication away from his reach. According to data, almost in 60 percent of the total suicide cases, victims have used guns to kill themselves.
  • Agree to help the person whenever he wishes to share his feelings.
  • Do not argue or find faults. The fact that someone is helping him figure out a way to betterment has a healing effect on him.
Parents should watch over their teenagers and help them clear their distortions about life and bring back hope and vigor. Honestly, no magical spells are needed, help them open up and express whatever they feel.
Even the deepest of depression is curable, and people with suicidal thoughts and behavior can be treated with timely care and concern. Help them embrace a new life with your efforts.