Suicide rate is increasing every year. In fact, it is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States alone. On average there are 121 people committing suicide every day. However, suicide rate among adolescents varied. On average, one out of ten thousand adolescents aged 15-19 committed suicide every year. Suicide rate among youths aged 12 to 16 is also varied. The number of boys who have committed suicide is about 10% while girls were 20%. But gay and lesbian adolescents have higher rate of suicide for about 5 to 7 times compared to heterosexuals.
Adolescence is a stage of development wherein an individual experiences tremendous changes. These changes comprise physical, emotional, psychological and moral dimensions. Therefore, if an individual is not ready or incapable of coping, problems may arise.
Common problems among adolescents
Because adolescence is a stage of development that an individual may begin to explore life, surprises may lure along the way. These surprises may stir, shake or threaten adolescent’s well-being.
Adolescents may encounter the following problems:
1. Lose attention or focus
Adolescence is a stage where an individual engages in different vital activities of life. School activities and social life are both demanding. A teenager may lose focus due to tremendous excitement of what is currently happening in his/her life. Aside from studies, a teenager may also involve in other activities such as sports, music/band, outreach and part time jobs.
Because of tremendous pressure, an adolescent may lose his/her focus. Oftentimes academic activities suffer. As a result, home works and other class requirements are often left undone or unfinished. This inability to focus on priorities may end up in low academic performance.
In some instances however losing focus may be temporary but when it becomes chronic, problem may gradually arise.
2. Mood swings
One of the root causes of teenager’s problem is mood instability. This mostly happens among girls due to hormonal imbalance. Nonetheless, mood swing may cause misunderstanding among circle of friends, activities and relationships. A teenager may wonder what happens to him/her. What triggers the shift in moods and when it usually occurs? So the life of an adolescent may be accompanied by so many questions rather than answers.
3. Low self esteem
Self-esteem refers to a person’s overall evaluation about himself or herself. Low self-esteem means having feeling of inadequate, inferior or feeling of not deserving to achieve or have anything good. This poor self-evaluation affects self-confidence. Adolescents who have low self-esteem may be incapable of maximizing his/her talents, skills or potentials.
Anxiety is a normal part of day to day experience. Teenage students feel anxious speaking before the class, meeting new acquaintances, meeting deadlines and dealing with interpersonal relationships. It only becomes a problem when anxiety persists in a long considerable period of time. Feeling chronic anxiety is definitely a problem because of its possible negative impact on daily life.
The cause of depression may be several. Adolescents may experience depression due to inability to cope up with life’s demands; parents’ divorce, low grades, problem in intimate relationship, etc. Depression is manifested by persistent sadness, despair and loss of interest in daily activities.
6. Eating problem
Eating problem starts when a person tries to pursue perfection on physical figure. Societal norms are some of the causes on this problem. Because our society worships perfect body, and because adolescents are the most susceptible to societal demands, they are the most affected. As a result, teenagers tend to lose weight by limiting food intake. However, too much limit on food intake can be detrimental to health in many aspects.
7. Drugs and alcohol
Adolescence is a stage of development when an individual is in the process of exploration; he/she wants to try anything. With peer pressure, an adolescent may end up drinking alcohol or use illegal drugs. If their friends use such substances, temptation is strong.
Another cause of drug use and alcohol drinking is popular media. Some adolescents may believe that using illegal drugs and alcohol drinking can give them self-confidence to overcome fear, shyness and even escaping problems.
These problems are only a few that adolescents may encounter in their lives which may cause suicidal ideation or suicidal behavior. But how can we know that an individual or an adolescent has tendency to commit suicide?
The National Institute of Mental Health listed some signs or symptoms of someone who is thinking about suicide.
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
- Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stocking pills, or buying a gun
- Talking about great guilt or shame
- Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
- Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Using alcohol or drugs more often
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Talking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fat
- Talking or thinking about death often
- Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
- Giving away important possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Putting affairs in order, making a will
Although some have effectively coped with life’s challenges, many teenagers are not as capable as their counterparts. Those who were overwhelmed by the drastic changes in their lives may find drastic and illogical solution to their problems – suicide. Can we (ordinary people) help to reduce suicide incidents?
There are several ways to help reduce suicide incidents – save our love ones from taking their own lives. However, this article does not really replace the appropriateness of counselling process or other psychological health services. This article only contains helpful tips but not psychological intervention. The author would like to emphasize the importance of seeking professional help when problems persist in high degree.
Reduce suicide rate by:
1. Helping adolescents to have positive thinking
Most of suicide incidents among adolescents happen when an adolescent clings to negative thoughts. Negative thinking pattern is a powerful cause of negative behavior. To help adolescents from taking undesirable decisions, let’s change their thinking pattern. Let’s find ways to make them happy and have positive outlook in life.
2. Help adolescents manage their stress
Life is really stressful. Adolescents’ lives are even more stressful due to numerous demands. These young people are often become overwhelmed on what is happening to them that cause so much stress. Nonetheless, we can help them cope with these massive challenges by making them relax. Let us inspire them to have a break – watch movies, engage with nature, and breathe some fresh air. Most of all help them detach themselves from gadgets or technologies for a while.
3. Help them build self-confidence
Let us make them realize that there’s nothing to fear about. Fear among teenagers emanate from the feeling of inferiority. They are afraid of being not suitable in a group – that they are lesser individuals than other people. The best point to start helping them is to make them realize that inferiority is a self-created reality. Thus, building self-confidence starts in changing the thinking patterns. Help them realize their potential, self-value and develop hidden abilities.
4. Help them establish a support network
Adolescents who committed suicide were aloft to social activities. Helping depressed adolescents to prevent formation of negative thoughts means helping them to find social support. Let them communicate with fellow teenagers, friends and families and inspire them to share their problems. This is one of the best ways to lessen the burden they might carry with them.
Although there are biological treatment to suicide, these tips can serve as preliminary and preventive approach to help reduce suicide rates. Let us help young people to pass through the rocky phase of their lives. All that we can do is to make time to listen to them, make them feel that we care about them – that we feel their hardships – that we are always ready to accompany their journey.