Youth suicide is when a young person, generally categorized as someone below age 21, deliberately ends their own life. Rates of attempted and completed youth suicide in Western societies and other countries are high. Youth suicide attempts are more common among girls, but adolescent males are the ones who usually carry out suicide. Suicide rates in youths have nearly tripled between the 1960s and 1980s. For example, in Australia suicide is second only to motor vehicle accidents as its leading cause of death for people aged 15–25, and according to the National Institute for Mental Health, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens in the United States.
According to research conducted by the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian in 2007, 39% of all youth suicides are completed by young people who have lost someone of influence or significance to them to suicide. The Commission terms this suicide contagion and makes several recommendations as to the importance of safeguarding young people and communities from suicide contagion.
In 2011 the Australian Federal Parliament Standing Committee for Health and Ageing Inquiry into Youth Suicide met in a round table forum with young representatives from three organisations at the forefront of preventing youth suicide. These organizations included Sunnykids, Inspire, and Boys Town. The Standing Committee has since released a discussion paper highlighting the findings of their inquiry and will seek to make final recommendations on the most effective means for reducing youth suicide.
Teens at risk
One of the problems facing teenagers at risk of suicide is getting psychiatric counseling when it's needed. One study says, "In teenagers, depression is considered a major - if not the leading - cause of teen suicide." Factors and risks contributed to youth suicide are academic pressure, alcohol consumption, the loss of a valued relationship, frequent change of residency, and poor family patterns. Harassment is a leading cause of teen suicide, along with abuse. Gay teens or those unsure of their sexual identity are more likely to commit suicide, particularly if they have suffered bullying or harassment, as discussed next. The following campaigns have been started in hopes of giving teens hope and abolishing the feeling of isolation.
Lack of impulse control has been found to differentiate adolescent suicide attempters from a control group of adolescents with an acute illness (Slap, Vorters, Chaudhuri, & Centor, 1988). However, impulsivity does not characterize all suicide attempters, since group comparisons have found no differences between suicidal patients and psychiatric controls on a measure of cognitive impulsivity (Patsiokas, Clum, & Luscomb, 1979). Instead, impulsivity may be important in identifying high risk subgroups.
Sexual minority youth and suicide
Youth that fall under the category of sexual minorities are at an elevated risk of depression and succumbing to self-harm. Among the population of sexual minority youth, on average, 28% explain having past experiences with suicidal actions and/or thoughts. Lesbian and gay youth are the group most likely to face negative experiences, leading to a higher likelihood of the development of suicidal thoughts according to mental care professionals. Bisexuality also carries a higher likelihood of suicidality with bisexuals being 5 times more likely to report suicidal thoughts and actions. Sexual minority youth also report a higher incidence of substance abuse when compared to heterosexuals. Overall, studies suggest that sexual minority youth carry a higher incidence of suicide and depression.
Previous exposure, attempts, and age impacting youth suicide
Exposure to suicide, previous attempts of suicide, and age are some of the most influential factors of young individuals and their probability of dying by suicide. Adolescent exposure to suicide through classmates has caused researchers to hypothesize suicide as a contagion. They note how a child’s exposure to suicide predicts suicide ideation and attempts. Previous exposure to suicide through parental attempts have also been found to have a 3.5 increase in a youth’s probability of having suicidal thoughts, with a 2.6 increased chance of them attempting suicide. Aggression in families and its transference can be one of the main causes of transmission of suicidal tendencies in families.
Previous attempts of suicide also play a major role in a youth attempting suicide again. On average, it has been recorded that the follow-up period for suicide-attempters was 3.88 years. Evidence shows those most at risk for suicide are those who previously attempted suicide, with research showing that they can have anywhere from a 40 to over a 100 times higher chance of dying by suicide compared to the general population.
Age and experience also factor into suicide. It has been found that older, more experienced populations take more time to plan, choose deadlier methods, and have greater suicidal intent. This results in them eventually committing suicide at a higher rate than their younger counterparts.
Bereavement among young people
The primary goals of suicide postvention include assisting the survivors of suicide with the grief process, along with identifying and referring those survivors who may be at risk for negative outcomes such as depressive and anxiety disorders, and suicidal behaviour. With 42% of completed youth suicides being suicide bereavement (or contagion) related - further research and investment must be made into supporting this group of people. A few suggestions to make sure the support is effective include making the individuals feel connected and understood.
Two possible determinants to suicide attempts are lifetime sexual abuse and adult physical violence. Among participants aged 18–25, the odds ratios for lifetime sexual abuse and adult physical violence are 4.27 and 3.85, respectively. In other words, those who committed suicide are 327% more likely to have experienced lifetime sexual assault. Similarly, a suicide victim is 285% more likely to have suffered physical violence as an adult. Based on a survey done on American high school students, 16% reported considering suicide and 8% reported attempting suicide sometime within the 12 months before taking the survey. Between 1980 and 1994, the suicide rates of young black males doubled. American Indians and Alaska Natives commit suicide at a higher rate than any other ethnic group in the United States. In India, one-third of suicides are young people 15–29. In 2002, 154,000 suicides were recorded in India. In the United States, about 60 percent of suicides are carried out with a gun. Some Aboriginal teens and gay or lesbian teens are at high risk, depending on their community and their own self-esteem. Several campaigns have been started to give them hope and help them to feel less isolated.
One organization in Australia has found that young people who feel connected, supported and understood are less likely to commit suicide. Reports on the attitudes of young people identified as at risk of suicide have been released. Such reports support the notion that connectedness, a sense of being supported and respected, is a protective factor for young people at risk of suicide. According to Pueblo Suicide Prevention Center (PSPC) for some reason kids today are experiencing more pressure.
Issues for communities
Intervention issues for communities to address include: suicide contagion, developmental understanding of suicide, development and suicide risk, and the influence of culture. Key matters in postvention responses for young people include: community context, life stage relevance of responses, identification and referral (Postvention Co-ordination), developing a suite of services, and creating ongoing options.
One can help prevent adolescent suicide by discouraging isolation, addressing a child's depression which is correlated with suicide, getting rid of any objects that a child could use to commit suicide, and simply paying attention to what the child does or feels.
Schools are a great place to provide more education and support on suicide prevention. Since students spend a majority of their time at school, school can be either a haven from or a source of suicidal triggers, and students' peers can heavily influence their state of mind. The school setting is an ideal environment to educate students on suicide and have support readily available.
Table of Youth Suicide Rates
|Country||Year of Data||Rate of Males||Rate of Females||Total|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1994||8.9||10.5||9.6|
|Republic of Korea||2001||5.9||4.9||5.4|
|Republic of Moldova||2002||7.1||1.1||4.1|
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- (Reference to come)
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