Understanding the Causes of Teenage Suicide

Research
By: 
Franklin P. Schargel

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a series on the causes and prevention of teenage suicide

Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for 10 to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after unintended accidents. In June 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that teenage suicide had replaced homicide as the second leading cause of teenage death. Almost as many teens die from suicide as the fourth through the tenth leading causes of death combined. It's also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.

Why would children so young, with a full life ahead of them, attempt suicide? This series of articles will provide the background, the warning signs, and what schools, parents and students can do.

How Serious is the Problem?

  • In the next 24 hours 1,439 teens will attempt suicide. As many as 250,000 adolescents made a serious yet unsuccessful effort to kill themselves last year.
  • The fastest-growing group completing suicide is children between the ages of 10 and 14.
  • Every 90 minutes a teenager or young adult is successful in killing himself or herself.
  • The suicide rate in the past 25 years has been decreasing, yet the rate for those between 15 and 24 has tripled. The adolescent suicide rate is nearly 33 percent higher than that of the overall population.
  • The ratio of male to female suicides is four to one. However, young women attempt suicide nine times more frequently. Guns are the most common means of suicide among males. Since males use firearms, there is a 78-90 percent chance of male fatality. Pills (poisoning) are the most commonly used method of suicide for females.
  • Half of all children who have made one suicide attempt will make another, sometimes as many as two per year until they succeed.
  • According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, seventy-five percent of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.
  • Suicide among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LBG) young people is comparatively higher than among the general population.
  • According to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics (Pediatrics), gay and bisexual teens are 20 percent more likely to attempt suicide in politically conservative areas than in ”supportive” environments.  Rolling Stone reported on a rash of teen suicides – nine in two years, four of them gay-related in the Minnesota school district.

The risk of suicide increases dramatically when kids and teens have access to firearms at home, and nearly 60 percent of all suicides in the United States are committed with a gun. That's why any gun in a home should be unloaded, locked, and kept out of the reach of children and teens. Suicide rates differ between boys and girls. Girls think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys and tend to attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves. Yet boys die by suicide about four times as often girls, perhaps because they tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

  • In 1996, more teenagers and young adults died of suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.
  • In 1996, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among college students, the second-leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24 years, and the fourth leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 14 years.
  • From 1980 to 1996, the rate of suicide among African-American males aged 15 to 19 years increased by 105 percent.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, four percent of the United States population, estimated at 1.3 million adults, attempted suicide in one year, and 1.1 million had made plans or had suicidal thoughts.
  • In the next 24 hours, 1,439 teens will attempt suicide. As many as 250,000 adolescents made a serious yet unsuccessful effort to kill themselves in 2018.
  • The fastest-growing group successfully completing a suicide attempt is children between the ages of 10 and 14.
  • The suicide rate in the past 25 years has been decreasing, yet the rate for those between 15 and 24 has tripled. The adolescent suicide rate is nearly 33 percent higher than that of the overall population.
  • Half of all children who have made one suicide attempt will make another, sometimes as many as two per year until they succeed.
  • According to a study published in Pediatrics, gay and bisexual teens are 20 percent more likely to attempt suicide in politically conservative areas than in ”supportive” environments. 
  • The risk of suicide increases dramatically when kids and teens have access to firearms at home, and nearly 60 percent of all suicides in the United States are committed with a gun. That's why any gun in a home should be unloaded, locked, and kept out of the reach of children and teens.
  • Overdose using over-the-counter, prescription and non-prescription medicine is also a very common method for both attempting and completing suicide. It's important to monitor carefully all medications in your home. Also be aware that teens will "trade" different prescription medications at school and carry them (or store them) in their locker or backpack.

In part-two of this series, we’ll explore the reasons for these alarming suicide rates, and what you can do to help prevent suicide tragedies at school as well as home.

About the Author

Franklin P. Schargel is a former classroom teacher, school counselor and school administrator who successfully designed, developed and helped implement a process that:  dramatically increased parental engagement, increased post-secondary school attendance and significantly lowered his Title 1 high school’s dropout rate.  The U.S. Department of Education, Business Week, Fortune Magazine, National Public Radio (NPR) the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and The New York Times have recognized his work. In addition, Schargel served as the Education Division Chair of the American Society for Quality and helped develop the National Quality Award, the Malcolm Baldridge Award for Education.

 In 2014, Schargel was nominated for the Brock International Prize in Education for “demonstrating clear evidence of success in dropout prevention and for retaining students in alternative education environments. He was one of nine people, globally, to be nominated. Previously he had been awarded the Individual Crystal Star Award by the National Dropout Prevention Network (NDPN) and the International Association for Truancy and Dropout Prevention honored him with its “Program of the Year Award”. Schargel was selected as one of the top 30 Educational Gurus for 2015. Auburn University presented him with their “Hero Award” as the individual who has addressed bullying situations in schools in June 2016. Auburn University awarded him the “Auburn Hero Award” for his work in “reducing dropouts and for helping Alternative Education Schools.” 

In addition, Schargel is an internationally recognized speaker, trainer and author of thirteen best-selling books. His last published book: “Creating Safe Schools: A Guide for School Leaders, Classroom Teachers, Counselors and Parents” has been published internationally by Francis and Taylor, LLC. In addition, he has written over 100 published articles dealing with school reform.

 

 

 

 


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