• Teenage Suicide is Very Preventable

    by Dr. Micaela Wexler


    Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 16-24. 4,600 people between the ages of 10-24 die from suicide in the United States every year. For every teenager who dies from suicide, another nine attempt suicide. More children and teenagers die from suicide than from from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined. Suicide is the only cause of that which is increasing.

    With these statistics, it is easy to believe that teenage suicide is inevitable. Research, however, shows this is not the case.

    Suidical ideation is a sign of severe depression.

    There are several factors which have been found to contribute to the incidence of teenage suicide, all of which are modifiable: silence about suicide, belief in suicide myths, access to lethal means, lack of access to mental health care, contagion effect and risk factors being ignored.

    KidPsychDocMotherSonTalking to your teenager about suicide is lifesaving. Many parents do not know how to bring up the subject. As a psychiatrist, I have found what works best is to start by asking about how a child or teenager feels. Then transition to, “have you ever been so sad you wished you weren’t alive?”

    Awareness of suicide myths can go a long way to decreasing teenage suicide. Common myths include: suicide attempts are just a way to get attention; suicidal teenagers are loners with chaotic home environments; mentioning the word suicide will plant the idea in a teenager’s brain. A common one that I hear is the following: “If a kid really wants to kill herself, there’s nothing you can do to stop her.”

    Children and teenagers who die from suicide come from many different backgrounds Research shows that high achieving teenagers with neurotic perfectionism are at increased risk. The well known case of Madison Holleran is an example of high achieving teenager from a stable family who nonetheless died from her depression.

    WexlerPsychiatryDepressedGirlChildren and teenagers NEED attention. Not only that, they are often pretty good at getting attention. If a teenager engages in suicidal behavior, that teenager needs a very specific type of attention in the form of psychiatric help.

    Know the risk factors for depression and suicide: situational stress, depression, substance abuse, aggression, self-injurious behavior and stressful school environment.

    Suicide rates mirror gun ownership rates state by state. More than 60% of the people in this country who die from guns die from suicide. A campaign done in Rhode Island in 2011 called “Suicide Proof your Home” resulted in a significant decrease in teenage suicide.

    Know where to go for help. If your teenager makes a suicidal comment, it must be taken seriously. Go to the nearest emergency room. Call 1-800-273-TALK. If your child reports past suicidal thoughts that have resolved, you still need to get help. Start by talking to your pediatrician or family physician. Call your mental health center. Call the school counselor. Visit wexlerpsych.com.

    With appropriate treatment as well as support from family and friends, teenagers who experience suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide can recover and have a healthy and productive life.

    Dr. Micaela Wexler provides child, adolescent and adult pscyhiatric services in Kansas.

    Please visit Wexler Family Psychiatry to schedule an appointment.

    Logo Copyright Debby Bloom
    Appointment information for Dr. Wexler: wexlerpsych.com

    Categories: child psychiatry, suicide, teenage suicide

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