On a national level, the suicide rate has been on the rise for several decades. As of 2018, there are an estimated 123 suicide deaths per day. It is a staggering statistic, even when you consider the total population of the US – and across all age groups, the suicide rate is climbing fastest among adolescents and young adults.
It is an unambiguous truth that as a country, we are continuing to struggle with growing suicide rates. But past that fact, things begin to get muddled.
It is not difficult to find statistically-relevant factors when analyzing this trend – America is beset with issues and problems. Hot off the heels of a major recession and rising inequality, there are many factors that contribute to the growing death toll. Despite growing awareness, and the recent tragedies of high profile suicides pointing toward the need for better healthcare and public understanding for mental health issues, our country’s lack of mental healthcare resources is astounding.
Regionally, suicide deaths are growing at an especially frightening rate in rural areas, from Alaska to Wyoming. As per a report from the Washington Post, around half of our rural counties saw suicide rates increase by 30 percent or more over the past decade.
Among teens, matters of drug use, mental health, and economic opportunity – such as worries over an uncertain future in a tumultuous social landscape – are coupled with insecurities and self-esteem issues exacerbated by raging hormones and confusing relationships, alongside the growing dangers of cyberbullying and the negative mental influences of excessive technology use, the erosion of community values over growing isolation, and turbulent families.
Teens today struggle with many of the same issues as the young adults of yesteryear, such as academic pressure and expectations. Yet these issues are coupled with new problems, such as reduced parental contact, and massively increased media use. Alongside these issues, teens today face a greater school-angst, growing levels of obesity and sleep deprivation, as well as reduced face-to-face interaction and social support.
How to Prevent Suicide Deaths in Teens
It falls upon parents and professionals to do their utmost to help protect our children – but how? Despite the depressing nature of this report, it is important to see it as a reminder to be vigilant for signs of depression, anxiety, and self-harm. The decision to commit suicide is not one that happens overnight but occurs at the end of a long and dark thought process. There are several warning signs that hint at this thought process, and knowing what to look for can help stop a tragedy:
- Drastic personality shifts and changes in attitude. Going through phases, both in terms of appearance and behavior, is normal for teens. But if these changes include aggressive behavior, social isolation, or signs of self-harm, it is important to intervene.
- Physical pain. Frequent headaches, stomach pains, and bruising, if not otherwise explained by a medical condition, can occur either due to abuse or dangerous levels of stress.
- Signs of drug use. Addiction can lead to suicide or develop due to excessive stress or trauma.
- A disturbing fascination with death. Teens who make frequent references to death or dying, publicly or online, could be struggling with problems that are putting them at risk for suicide.
Several issues contribute to the fact that suicides are on the rise throughout America. As individuals, tackling these changes may seem impossible or overwhelming. Yet while we cannot individually influence changes in policy and public opinion, we can take steps to protect the children of our communities, and work with families to help teens in need of mental care and therapy.