No one has a say in being born, in coming into existence, but it is possible for a person to end his or her own life. Most dictionaries define suicide as the intentional act of taking one’s own life. Suicides may be connected to mental disorders, substance abuse, relational and personal failures or losses, medical conditions and gambling.
Suicide is an international epidemic. According to the World Health Organization 2012 report, Guayana, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Lithuania, Suriname, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nepal, Kazakhatan, Burundi and India (in that order) all had rates of suicide above 20 per 100,000. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, all reported 1 per 100,000 or less. The United States reported 12.1 per 100,000 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate, accessed 13 May 2016).
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Each year 42,773 Americans die by suicide, and for every suicide there are 25 reported attempts. By ethnicity, White, then, American Indian, have the highest rates of suicide in the U.S.
The national cost of suicides and suicide attempts in the U.S. in 2013 “was $58.4 billion based on reported numbers alone. Lost productivity (termed indirect costs) represents” most of this figure. Medical costs and treatment add to this (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/sltb.12225/full, accessed 13 May 2016).
Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) found on data available a mean suicide rate of 7.4 per 100,000—higher among males (10.5) than for females (4.1) (“Global suicide rates among young people aged 15-19,” World Psychiatry, accessed 13 May 2016).
In the U.S., statistics from The Parent Resource Program declare suicide to be the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. “Each day… there are an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12. Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs” (http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/), accessed 13 May 2016).
The U.S. youthful suicide rate reached its peak in 1977, then leveled off; and showed a slight decline in the early 1980s. However, since 1980, there has been a 120% increase in suicides among American teenagers. The rise has especially been notice among females and LGBT youth. One in twelve teens has attempted suicide. In the U.S., about 5,000 young people end their lives each year. About 100,000 others try (estimates range from 50,000 to 250,000). Many more take their lives in “accidental” deaths (angry, drunken driving, etc.).
More girls attempt suicide than boys, but more boys die as a result of suicide attempts. The highest rate of suicide is among white males (four times the overall teenage average). Boys tend to use guns and violent means for suicide attempts, whereas girls are more likely to take pills. This classic pattern is changing, however, as girls are turning to more violent means.
There is a high correlation of suicide with divorce, absence of church attendance, and unemployment. Also, the influence of heavy metal rock music lyrics and videos have been noted in suicide notes.
Key Factors in Suicidal Temperaments
Low self-esteem and self-confidence.
The tendency to set unreachable expectations.
Limited communication and relationships.
Emotional weakness in adolescent crises.
The influence of peer suicides.
A fantasy view of reality which blurs the significance of life and death.
Signals or Cues Suicide To Be Taken Seriously
Depression, hopelessness, and withdrawal.
Changes in behavior patterns (slow and listless or reckless and defiant).
Verbal clues (leave-taking, termination talk).
The giving away of significant possessions.
Types of Suicides
The romantic suicide.
The crisis suicide.
The psychotic suicide.
The depressed suicide.
The angry suicide.
Those whose suicide is a form of communication.
Among youth, many deaths can be described as “impulsive suicides.”
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Have you ever thought of taking your life? Why or why not?
Has any one close to you attempted suicide?
How would you respond and react to a friend of family member considering suicide?
What do you consider the most effective means of suicide prevention?
For the 20% of teenagers estimated to be seriously disturbed in our society, preventive measures are crucial. Parents, teachers, and youth leaders need to seriously look at the key factors above. Our communication and programs should deal with these.
Take suicidal clues or signals seriously. Talk to the person sensitively and frankly (there is no support for the idea that talking about suicide plants the idea or increases the likelihood of an attempt). Get counsel from persons qualified to judge. Refer the young person to professionals.
Suicides leave deep feelings among family and friends. These must be processed after any suicide. Counselors and care givers of all sorts can be deeply affected.
Caring adults, such as youth leaders, are prime preventive factors.