Teen suicide is a major cause of death among teens, though many do not recognize suicide as a serious threat to a teenager’s well being.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents and teenagers. According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), about 8 out of every 100,000 teenagers committed suicide in 2000. For every teen suicide death, experts estimate there are 10 other teen suicide attempts.
In a survey of high school students, the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center found that almost 1 in 5 teens had thought about suicide, about 1 in 6 teens had made plans for suicide, and more than 1 in 12 teens had attempted suicide in the last year. As many as 8 out of 10 teens who commit suicide try to ask for help in some way before committing suicide, such as by seeing a doctor shortly before the suicide attempt.
Teen girls and boys are both at risk for suicide. Teen girls are more likely to attempt suicide, but teenage boys are four to five times more likely to die by suicide. Over half of teen suicide deaths are inflicted by guns.
Several factors increase the risk that a teenager will attempt suicide:
- Depression or feelings of loneliness or helplessness
- Alcohol or drug addiction
- A family history of abuse, suicide, or violence
- Previous suicide attempts; almost half of teens who commit suicide had attempted suicide previously.
- A recent loss such as a death, break-up, or parents’ divorce Illness or disability
- Stress over school, relationships, performance expectations, etc.
- Fear of ridicule for getting help for problems
- Being bullied or being a bully
- Exposure to other teens committing suicide, such as at school or in the media
- Access to firearms or other lethal objects
- A belief that suicide is noble
90 percent of people who attempt or commit suicide suffer from a mental illness, such as:
- Depression, which causes a teen to feel sad, lonely, withdrawn, and unable to accomplish simple tasks.
- Bipolar disorder, where a teen alternates between periods of depression and mania, characterized by exuberance, insomnia, irritability, and inability to concentrate.
- Schizophrenia, a complicated condition where a teen has hallucinations or distorted perceptions of reality.
- Alcoholism or drug addiction, especially when combined with another mental health disorder; 20 to 50 percent of suicide attempts are related to drug or alcohol use.
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call 911 or take the person to the emergency room immediately.
Call a suicide prevention hotline, such as 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), or check your local phone book for suicide prevention hotlines or mental health centers to help someone who is thinking about suicide.
Teen Suicide Statistics Sources:
- National Institute of Mental Health, "In Harm’s Way: Suicide in America" [online]
- National Institute of Mental Health, "What to do When a Friend is Depressed" [online]
- National Institute of Mental Health, "Schizophrenia" [online]
- Center for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, "Suicide: Fact Sheet" [online]
- GirlsHealth.gov, "Suicide" National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center [online]
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education [online] National Mental Health Association, "Fact Sheet: Suicide" [online]
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "Depression, Particularly In Combination with Substance Abuse, Significant Risk Factor for Suicide" [online]
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