Teen Suicide & Depression
Why Do Teens Try to Kill Themselves?
Most teens interviewed after making a suicide attempt say that they did it because they were trying to escape from a situation that seemed impossible to deal with or to get relief from really bad thoughts or feelings.
They didn’t want to die as much as they wanted to escape from what was going on. And at that particular moment dying seemed like the only way out.
Some teens that end their lives or attempt suicide might be trying to escape feelings of rejection, hurt, or loss.
Other teens are angry, ashamed, or guilty about something. Some may be worried about disappointing friends or family members. Other may feel unwanted, unloved, victimized, or like they’re a burden to others.
We all feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions or situations sometimes. But most people get through it or can put their problems in perspective and find a way to carry on with determination and hope.
So why does one teen try suicide when another teen in the same tough situation does not?
What makes some people more resilient (better able to deal with life’s setbacks and difficulties) than others? What makes a person unable to see another way out of a bad situation besides ending his or her life?
The answer to those questions lies in the fact that most people who commit suicide have DEPRESSION.
Depression and Teen Suicide
Depression leads people to focus mostly on failures and disappointments, to emphasize the negative side of their situations, and to downplay their own capabilities or worth.
Someone with severe depression is unable to see the possibility of a good outcome and may believe they will never be happy or things will never go right for them again.
Depression affects a person’s thoughts in such a way that the person doesn’t see when a problem can be overcome.
It’s as if the depression puts a filter on the person’s thinking that distorts things. That’s why depressed people don’t realize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem in the same way that other people do.
A teen with depression may feel like there’s no other way out of problems, no other escape from emotional pain, or no other way to communicate their desperate unhappiness.
Sometimes people who feel suicidal may not even realize they are depressed.
They are unaware that it is the depression, not the situation, that’s influencing them to see things in a “there’s no way out,” kind of way. When depression lifts because a person gets the proper therapy or treatment, the distorted thinking is cleared. The person can find pleasure, energy, and hope again. But while someone is seriously depressed, suicidal thinking is a real concern.
People with a condition called bipolar disorder are also more at risk for suicide because their condition can cause them to go through times when they are extremely depressed as well as times when they have abnormally high or frantic energy (called mania or manic).
Both of these extreme phases of bipolar disorder affect and distort a person’s mood, outlook, and judgment.
For people with this condition, it can be a challenge to keep problems in perspective and act with good judgment.
Drugs & Alcohol – Teen Suicide
Teens with alcohol and drug problems are also more at risk for suicidal thinking and behavior. Alcohol and some drugs have depressive effects on the brain. Misuse of these substances can bring on serious depression.
That’s especially true for some teens that already have a tendency towards teen suicide and depression because of their biology, family history, or other life stressors.
The problem can be made worse because many people who are depressed turn to alcohol or drugs as an escape.
But they may not realize that the depressive effects alcohol and drugs have on the brain can actually intensify depression in the long run.
In addition to their depressive effects, alcohol and drugs alter a person’s judgment. They interfere with the ability to assess risk, make good choices, and think of solutions to problems.
Many suicide attempts occur when a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
This doesn’t mean that everyone who is depressed or who has an alcohol or drug problem will try to kill themselves, of course not. But these conditions, especially both together, increase a person’s risk for suicide.
Teen Suicide Is Not Always Planned
Sometimes a depressed person plans a suicide in advance. Many times, though, suicide attempts happen impulsively, in a moment of feeling desperately upset.
A situation like a breakup, a big fight with a parent, an unintended pregnancy, being rejected by someone, or being victimized in any way can cause someone to feel desperately upset. Often, a situation like this, on top of an existing depression, acts like the final straw.
Some people who attempt suicide mean to die and some don’t. For some, a suicide attempt is a way to express deep emotional pain.
They can’t say how they feel, so, for them, attempting suicide feels like the only way to get their message across.
Sadly, even when a suicide attempt is a cry for help and the person doesn’t mean to die, there’s no way to control it. Many people who really didn’t mean to kill themselves end up dead or critically ill.
There are often signs that someone may be thinking about or planning a suicide attempt. Here are some of them:
- talking about suicide or death in general
- talking about “going away”
- referring to things they “won’t be needing,” and giving away possessions
- talking about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
- pulling away from friends or family and losing the desire to go out
- having no desire to take part in favorite things or activities
- having trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
- experiencing changes in eating or sleeping habits
- engaging in self-destructive behavior (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or cutting, for example)
Risk factors For Attempted Suicide – Teen Suicide
There are some risk factors that go along with attempting suicide. And, while suicide is not confined to any age, gender, social or economic group, it is important to note that there are some factors that can make suicide seem a more desirable option for some teens.
Here Are Some Of The Risk Factors
- Family History: This can include a family history of suicide, mental disorders, and/or substance abuse.
- Substance Abuse: The use of prescription drugs or illegal drugs,alcohol and other substances can create feelings of dependency, illness and depression. Feeling out of control and powerless due to addiction orders can be a major risk factor in attempted teen suicide.
- Abuse and Violence: ABUSE – mental, emotional, physical or sexual, can increase the likelihood of attempted suicide.
When Struggling with Suicide Thoughts or Problems, it helps to:
- Tell someone you trust what’s going on with you.
- Be around people who are caring and positive.
- Ask someone to help you figure out what to do about a problem you’re facing.
- Work with a therapist or counselor if problems are getting you down and depressed, or if you don’t have a strong support network, or feel you can’t cope.
Counselors and therapists can provide emotional support and can help teens build their own coping skills for dealing with problems.
It can also help to join a support network for people who are going through the same problems — for example, anorexia and body image issues, living with an alcoholic family member, or sexuality and sexual health concerns.
Coping With Problems
Being a teen is not easy. There are many new social, academic, and personal pressures.
And for teens that have additional problems to deal with, such as living in violent or abusive environments, life can feel even more difficult.
Some teens worry about sexuality and relationships, wondering if their feelings and attractions are normal, or if they will be loved and accepted.
Others struggle with body image and eating problems; trying to reach an impossible ideal leaves them feeling bad about themselves.
Some teens have learning problems or attention problems that make it hard for them to succeed in school. They may feel disappointed in themselves or feel they are a disappointment to others.
These problems can be difficult and draining, and can lead to depression if they go on too long without relief or support. We all struggle with painful problems and events at times.
How do people get through it without becoming depressed?
Part of it is staying connected to family, friends, school, faith, and other support networks.
People are better able to deal with tough circumstances when they have at least one person who believes in them, wants the best for them, and in whom they can confide.
People also cope better when they keep in mind that most problems are temporary and can be overcome.