News from LSU Health Shreveport

Suicide & Youth

Facts:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 years in the United States.
  • 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9% have made an attempt to take their lives
  • In an average day, there are more than 5,200 suicide attempts made by middle school and high school students.
  • Far more children think about killing themselves than those who attempt suicide. This is called "suicidal ideation." (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
What makes Young People So Vulnerable to Suicide?
  1. For teens and young adults, their brain is still growing and developing. The prefrontal cortex, which controls impulsivity and helps regulate behavior, is still maturing. This part of the brain is not usually fully formed until the mid-20’s. Therefore, young people’s judgement and decision-making abilities are still forming and maturing. They often fail to consider the consequences of their actions and are impulsive. During intense emotional states, they can become more impulsive and their judgement worse.
  2. Socially, young people do not have the same support network as adults. A teen or young adult is not the same as a married person with children. Their social ties are weaker. People in this age range are often moving for jobs or careers. Your college roommate whom you were once so close to one year, takes a job offer halfway across the country and you lose touch. You may not feel like you have the emotional support network you need.
  3. We now know that the COVID-19 pandemic has created other public health crises – a drug & alcohol crisis and mental health crisis. The isolation of the pandemic exacerbated the social disconnection people may have been feeling or destroyed the protective connections people did have. Again, without a built-in family to come home to, young people often face greater feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  4. One particularly vulnerable group of youth is the LGBTQ youth. Being LGBTQ does not inherently make you prone to suicide, rather, it is the fear of rejection from one’s family, community or harsh treatment from others that can increase this group of youth’s risk. LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020). The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth (13-24) seriously consider suicide. When it comes to suicide prevention events, it is clear that much work still needs to be done in terms of helping and protecting particularly vulnerable groups.

Suicide Prevention –

The good news is times are slowly changing and the long-held stigma associated with mental illness is gradually beginning to change. On social media, the younger generation is openly discussing personal and private struggles, allowing many people to realize they are not alone. We have begun to see stories in the media of young people openly sharing their stories of

personal mental health struggles. Stanford soccer captain, Katie Meyer, age 22, took her life in March. Her parents shared that they felt the pressure of both school and sports may have been too much for her. Many students identified with the feelings of being under ‘too much pressure.’ Ohio State football player, Harry Miller, publicly shared that he had attempted suicide and retired from football due to mental health issues. Miller was able to share his struggles with his coach and got help. Singer, Shawn Mendes, cancelled his remaining dates in his world tour, publicly writing that he had to focus on his wellbeing, including his mental health. What would have been career ending in the past, has now changed. Celebrities such as Chris Evans, Demi Lovato, Jim Carrey, and Chrissy Teigen have shared their personal struggles with mental illness, helping to reduce the stigma and encouraging others to seek help.

How can I help prevent my teen from attempting suicide?

Learning the warning signs of teen suicide can prevent an attempt. Keeping open communication with your teen and their friends gives you a chance to help when needed. Also take these steps:

  • Keep medicines and guns away from children and teens.
  • Get your teen help for any mental or substance abuse problems.
  • Support your teen. Listen, try not to offer undue criticism, and stay connected.
  • Become informed about teen suicide. Resources include the public library, local support groups, and the Internet.

Know the warning signs for depression:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or loneliness
  • Declining school performance
  • Loss of interest in social and sports activities
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Nervousness, agitation, or grouchiness

Seek mental health treatment for your teen. If you feel it is an emergency, take them to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

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