This is a grave topic and one that cannot be ignored. Teens are ending their lives at a rate that’s never been seen before. We don’t fully understand why teens are so nihilistic, anxious, and depressed in today’s society. We do know of a few cases, such as the pressures of social media and how weighty it is on these young individuals, the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, isolation, extreme mood swings, and even their sleep cycle.
In Clark County, Las Vegas, there have been 18 recorded suicides over the course of only 9 months which is double the year prior. The district said that six students had taken their own lives between March 16th and June 30th and another twelve in the last half of 2020. Covid-19, all risks aside from catching the illness itself, had a catastrophic side effect that no one saw coming on our youth and absolutely plays a role in the net cause of these suicides.
In recent data from the CDC, it has shown that on average 129 people take their own lives in the United States. A majority of those people are those who are in their teenage years, and unfortunately, there is no simple justification as to why that is. This epidemic is seemingly far too overwhelming to tackle but there is sufficient evidence that early intervention is what makes prevention possible. Communities cannot undermine the power behind that. Early intervention is impactful and it’s saving lives; giving teens a chance to open up and articulate trauma so that they can surpass the entrapment of suicidal thoughts.
Teens are living in a time where there is no getting away from social entanglement and interaction, which is far beyond any other time prior. Generations before would see their “foes” and friends at school, interact and what not but once you got on the bus to get home you had time to separate and be alone. The magnitude of that infinite comparison and interaction that sits in their pocket is heavier than we imagine. It’s making teenagers compare themselves to others and witness a wide scale of different behavior through a screen that makes them overwhelmingly stressed, behind, or lesser than others. This feeling of always being under the microscope. It doesn’t take too much digging to see how someone is really feeling and young people want to feel heard and express themselves but don’t learn how to. There are many warning signs when it comes to thoughts of suicide in teens:
Talking about or mentioning killing themselves.
Expressing their inability to seek purpose or find meaning in their suffering.
Making remarks about being a burden to other people.
Acts of regular agitation, anxiousness, and outrage.
Oversleeping or barely sleeping at all.
Removing themselves socially from family and friends (choosing isolation)
Revenge seeking and resentful attitude or speech.
In association with the warning signs are the risk factors that attribute to the thoughts and actions taken to suicide. Risk factors are correlated with characteristics of the individual and these include such things as:
History of inflicted abuse or trauma (verbally and physically).
Being around or living with someone who abuses substances.
Particular mood/anxiety disorders.
Family history of suicide.
Academic failure or grade plummet.
Loss of a friend or someone they admired to suicide (someone they’ve met or even know of through social media or social popularity)
Loss of a relationship.
Disconnection with a parent.
Overall stigma to ask for help.
Ideology and expression of never being enough.
These are extremely complex risks to pay attention to and cannot go unnoticed. That’s why it’s very important how we approach teens when they are in this dark state of hopelessness and not to push them, attack them, accuse them or invalidate their feelings. We must come from a place of empathy and understanding. Work through it with them and meet them where they are at. Convert their feelings, surroundings, and circumstances, past and present, and help them vocalize and understand themselves. Early intervention and shining awareness on this, with giving teens a second chance, an ear, a hero, is undeniably the solution.