2011/365/097: Suicide at 14

SUICIDE HOTLINE: 800-273-8255

Earlier this week, a 14-year-old boy, active in his Christian middle school in my community (he was reportedly the student government president), took his own life. I do not know any of the details of this horrible tragedy. What I do know is that middle school children (and, tragically, even those younger in elementary school) are not immune to depression, anxiety, and even suicide.

Folks, there is no textbook case. Take any group of teens, and you will not be able to identify those who are suffering from depression or anxiety. While some individuals are very open with their struggles in managing their mental illness, just as many are masters at masking the indicators — sometimes, right up to the moment they decide to take their own life.

No child is immune. No threat should be ignored. No assumptions should be made that a child has “got it together” or can handle the pressures. In fact, most teens think that, to make it into their college of choice, they have to go above and beyond any and every expectation to receive that coveted acceptance letter. They’ll do anything to be the best — drugs (including prescription meds for ADHD), alcohol, or cheating.

Granted, many colleges are now beginning to tone down the unrealistic expectations, but the word is slow trickling down to the high schools (and now necessarily the middle schools). The new battle teens face is having their application rise above the sea of applicants, especially now that most seniors are applying to 6, 10, and even 15 schools.

I went to the website of this Christian school (and it is very well respected in our community), and I was glad to see that they had posted information on their middle school page about coping with death and the loss of a friend or fellow student (including good questions and answers that will help many families). For this situation, the members of this community will rely on such information. But we cannot hide the dangers. We cannot pretend that this doesn’t happen at our school or our church.

It does. Every single day.

We need to be aware. We need to educate ourselves, our children, our schools, and our communities about how common these anxieties are and how common depression is among our teens — yes, common for 14, 15, and 16 year-old teens.

I share these common statistics with you from Save.org.  Educate others. Make them aware that we need to listen to our children, we need to be attentive to their anxieties and triggers, and we need to work with our schools, our churches, and our families and neighbors to help see our kids through these challenging times. If you are in need, or if you know somebody in need, do not hesitate to call the help line (above). Remember: You Are Never Alone. You Are Loved.

Suicide Facts

  • Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year.
    Many who attempt suicide never seek professional care.
    There are twice as many deaths due to suicide than HIV/AIDS.
    Between 1952 and 1995, suicide in young adults nearly tripled.
    Over half of all suicides occur in adult men, ages 25-65.
    In the month prior to their suicide, 75% of elderly persons had visited a physician.
    Suicide rates in the United States are highest in the spring.
    Over half of all suicides are completed with a firearm.
    For young people 15-24 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death.
    Suicide rates among the elderly are highest for those who are divorced or widowed.
    80% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.
    15% of those who are clinically depressed die by suicide.
    There are an estimated 8 to 25 attempted suicides to 1 completion.
    The highest suicide rate is among men over 85 years old: 65 per 100,000 persons.
    1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year.
    Substance abuse is a risk factor for suicide.
    The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.
    By 2010, depression will be the #1 disability in the world. (World Health Organization)
    In 2004, 32,439 people died by suicide. (CDC)
    Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. (homicide is 15th). (CDC)
    Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans. (CDC)
    It is estimated that there are at least 4.5 million survivors in this country. (AAS)
    An average of one person dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes. (CDC, AAS)
    There are four male suicides for every female suicide. (CDC, AAS)
    Research has shown medications and therapy to be effective suicide prevention.
    Suicide can be prevented through education and public awareness.
    Last year SAVE educated 10,618 youth & parents on depression and suicide prevention.
    Last year SAVE received 810 requests for information from 72 countries.
    In 2004 it is estimated there were 811,000 suicide attempts in the US. (AAS)
    There are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt. (CDC, AAS)
    According to the Violent Death Reporting System, in 2004 73% of suicides also tested positive for at least one substance (alcohol, cocaine, heroin or marijuana).
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