Teen Depression and Suicide

Teen depression and suicide often accompany one another. This article offers suicide and depression statistics, the links between teen depression and suicide, and common symptoms for depression and suicide. Also learn about teen depression and suicidal thoughts.

Rates of Suicide and Depression

Suicide is the third of the leading causes of death for teens and young adults ages 15 through 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), following accidents and homicide. For preteens and young teens ages 10 to 14, suicide is the fourth of the leading causes of death. Nearly a fifth of students in high school have given serious consideration to suicide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and almost an eighth have reached the stage of formulating a plan for ending their own life.

Gone are the days when it was believed that only adults could become depressed. Depression is also prevalent among teens, though not to the same extent. According to ChildStats.gov, eight percent of young people age 12 to 17 had a Major Depressive Episode (MDE) within the past year. There are, however, other kinds of depression, and this research doesn’t cover the full range of the teen years. It also doesn’t account for teens whose depression goes undiagnosed.

The Main Links Between Teen Depression and Suicide

Teens may become so depressed that they consider committing suicide, possibly as the only way to end how terrible they feel. Teens who are depressed may also turn to substance abuse because alcohol and drugs can temporarily lift the feelings of depression. Studies have shown that depression and substance abuse are the two main risk factors for suicide. In fact, as many as 90 percent of people who commit suicide either have a mental health disorder, are engaging in substance abuse, or both.

Another link between teen depression and suicide concerns the bedtime and amount of sleep that teens get. A study reported in 2010 that teen with an earlier bedtime were less likely both to become depressed and to have suicidal thoughts. Moreover, teens who got eight hours of sleep were 71 percent less likely to consider themselves depressed and 48 percent less likely to state that they had suicidal thoughts than teens who were averaging five hours of sleep a night or less.

Common Symptoms for Depression and Suicide

Depression and suicide risk have some common symptoms. One is changes in eating patterns. Another is changes in sleep patterns. Additionally, teens may experience a drop in their school performance, withdraw from family, friends, and customary activities, engage in substance abuse, neglect their personal appearance in ways that aren’t customary, have symptoms of physical discomfort, and/or show signs of a lack of self-esteem or guilt.

Further Thoughts About Teen Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

A study conducted by members of the Department of Pediatrics at the Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio and published in 2006 found that 45 percent of all adolescent patients seeking treatment at an emergency room had mild, moderate, or severe depressive symptoms. The study concluded that a “substantial portion or patients with non-psychiatric chief complaints” manifested symptoms of moderate or severe depression. The implication is that depression among teens is under-diagnosed and that screening might be a useful preventative measure to take.

The sleep study also suggests that something as simple as monitoring bedtime and sleep habits may help prevent a certain number of cases of depression and suicide. There are many stressors during adolescence, from hormonal and physical changes to first work experiences, fulfilling high school graduation requirements and taking demanding course loads, completing college applications and enduring the long weight for responses, coping with negative responses from job applications and colleges, etc. If there are family issues—ranging from divorce to abuse to death of a sibling or parent—these can make depression even more likely.

Beyond this, the close connections shown between substance abuse and teen depression suggest that teens who are found to be abusing substances may not be the bad boys and girls, choosers of poor companions, defiant  individuals that fit the stereotype that may be held. Instead, they may be seeking a way out of feelings that they find unbearable and that—without diagnosis—they cannot understand or cope with.