Every year thousands of teens die in the United States, not from cancer or car accidents, but by their own hand; they make the choice that they want to die, and they take their own life. Statistics conducted in 1996 reveal that every 42 seconds a teenager attempts suicide and every 16.9 minutes a teenager completes it (World Future Society). Many people think that the latter is not factual, and they try to sweep the matter of teen suicide under the carpet. Yet it is all true. Suicide is the fastest growing killer of youth in America (www.yellowribbon.org), and ?if left unaddressed, it will help bring about disastrous consequences for [the United States] in the future (World Future Society).? So let us proceed in dealing with the vast teen suicide problem by first recognizing it as a national dilemma, then by educating our youth about it, and finally by providing greater access to resources dealing with it.
Teenage suicide is indeed a great plight in the United States. It is the eighth leading cause of all deaths in the country; third for persons aged 15 to 24 (Waters and Ingrassia). Statistics show that more than 13 of every 100,000 teenager took their life in 1990, and that number?s rising every year. It is further revealed that an estimated 500,000 teenagers kill themselves every year, and about 5000 succeed. ?5000 – that is right up there with cancer and homicide? (www.spanusa.org). In fact, suicide kills teens 3 to 6 times more than homicide. Although suicide rates over the past 40 years are relatively stable, the incidence of suicide among 15-24 year olds has tripled, while the rate among 15-19 year olds has quadrupled (Garner and Rosenberg). Additionally, the suicide completion for young people in the same age bracket has tripled among young men according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Brown University). A further study conducted by the Gallup Organization shows that 5% of American teenagers today say that they have tried to commit suicide. The numbers of death by teens suicide are rising quickly, and it must be stopped.
Why is it that teenagers are committing suicide? There are many factors which lead teenagers today to take their own life. There is the socio environmental factor which suggest that the greater access to firearms has caused a rise in the death of youth. Teenagers can easily kill themselves with such deadly weapons as guns. Two other angles involve science. Studies run by the Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network suggest that prenatal hazard increases the risks for teen suicide. Mother?s of the potential suicides received less prenatal care and were more likely to smoke cigarettes and take alcohol during pregnancy. ?Excess of suicide could, therefore, be due to CNS consequences of birth complications, exposure to some teratogen during pregnancy, and the heritability of psychopathology (www.spanusa.org).? Neurochemical abnormalities may also cause teen suicide. ?Findings in [. . .] adolescent suicide and suicide attempts include abnormally low levels of serotonin metabolite 5HIAA; reduction in presynaptic 5HT receptor density; increase in post synaptic 5HT receptor density (www.spanusa.org).? Suicide is a genetically influenced. It may be the result of an underlying personality or predisposition to mental illness that is inherited. One other cause is the imitative thinking of our youth (Garner and Rosenberg). After a film or news story on suicide is shown, suicide rates tend to go up. There are counts of specific suicides that were committed shortly after seeing or reading about suicide. The latter factors are, however, minor.
The two major causes of teen suicide are the homophobic sentiments of the people and struggles within the family unit. Many homosexual teens attempt to commit suicide due to the overwhelming pressure that our society puts on them to be normal. Generally speaking, homosexual youth tend to be outcast and abused verbally, physically, as well as mentally by their straight peers, for it is dictated by our society that whoever does not fall into the normal category must be persecuted. It is because of this thinking that our youth today are driven to kill themselves. The verbal, physical, and mental tortures that homosexual teens receive make them depressed and more prone to committing suicide. Struggles and problems within the family is also a big factor of teen suicide. Youngsters who commit suicide are somewhat more likely to come from a ?broken? home than are youngsters of the same ethnic group but about half lived with both biological parents at the time of the death. (www.spanusa.org). The absence of a strong relationship to parent-child friction and a significant excess of poor parent-child communication also lead to teen suicide (www.spanusa.org).
What can be done to cripple the rise in teen suicide? According to the National Strategy for Prevention of Suicide there are three steps in the fight against the problem – access, illumination, and methodology. They suggest that access to services and programs dealing with the issue must be enhanced, the public?s awareness be broadened or illuminated, and the scientific approach to the problem be continued (www.afsp.org).
I think that the problem is still not being addressed as it should be. Many teenagers are still dying. At least, the government has now recognized that teen suicide is a national problems and measures for it are no in the works. Such is so t as the House Resolution 212, which was advocated by U.S. Congressman John Lewis, was approved by the House.
I think that the best solution for the problem is to increase the awareness of preteens and teenagers. Get to them before they fall victim to suicide. I believe that these can be done in various ways. Informative discussions in school run by the specific organizations can be held in order to enlighten the youth about the suicide and its long term failure. Family forums can also be held by special organizations in order to create an awareness in both the parent and the child about the issue and also to improve the relationship between the child and the parent.
Teen suicide is a grave national problem indeed. It has taken the lives of many American youth already. The future of America?s next generation is at stake. Let us take action now before it is too late, before the teen suicide epidemic devours the whole nation. In other words, let?s deal with the problem. First, let?s recognize it. Then let?s become aware about it. After that, let?s take action to diminish it.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. www.afsp.org. viewed on 19 Nov. 1999.
Gardner, Sandra and Gary B. Rosenberg. Teenage Suicide. New Jersey: Julian Messner, 1990.
Light for Life Foundation International. www.yellowribbon.org. viewed on 31 Oct. 1999.
Society for the Advancement of Education. ?Teen Suicide.? USA Today Magazine. Dec94, Vol. 123 Issue 2595, p1, 1/9p.
Waters, Harry F. and Ingrassia, Michele. ?Teenage Suicide: One Act Not To Follow.? Newsweek. April 1994. 49-53.
Weyrauch, Jerry. www.spanusa.org. viewed on 31 Oct. 1999.
World Future Society. ?Tougher Times for Teenagers.? Futurist. Jul/Aug96, Vol. 30 Issue 4, p51, 2p.