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The Preventable Tragedy of Youth Suicide

Suicide replaced homicide as the second leading cause of teenage death

by Franklin P. Schargel

Editor’s Note: This is part one in a two-part series

Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents. In June 2016, the 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.

Students who are bullied frequently feel that suicide is the only way to escape the taunting. Students who are gay or made to feel different because they are short or too fat or too skinny or whatever resort to suicide.  

If you’ve ever been in a school where a student has attempted or been successful in committing suicide, you know how devastating the effects can be on other students, parents, friends of the victim and staff.  Schools report that there are frequently “copycat” attempts after a reported successful attempt.

Suicide is highly preventable with young people – it just requires recognition and resources. Most schools have a written protocol for dealing with students who show signs of suicidal behavior. Unfortunately, many educators do not know the signs of potential suicides nor have they been trained in how to address the problem.  Like many of the other social ills that schools are forced to deal with, suicide is something that requires schools to be proactive.

Did You Know?

  • In the next 24 hours, 1,439 teens will attempt suicide. As many as 250,000 adolescents made a serious unsuccessful effort to kill themselves in 2017.
  • The fastest-growing group successfully completing suicide is children between the ages of 10 – 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.
  • 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. Pills are the most commonly used method of suicide for females.
  • Caucasian males have had the highest increase in suicide. The has been an increase in incidence for white females. Suicide among young African Americans has also dramatically increased.
  • Half of all children who have made one suicide attempt will make another, sometimes as many as two a 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 by over-the-counter, prescription, and non-prescription medicine is a very common method for attempting and completing suicide. Carefully monitor all medications in your home. Be aware that teens will “trade” different prescription medications at school and carry them (or store them) in their locker or backpack.
  • Native American suicide rates for age group 15 to 24 are 3 times that of all Americans according to the New Mexico Department of Health Data. (Albuquerque Journal, November 19, 2011, p.C1)

Statistics About Suicide

Source:  National Alliance on Mental Health

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