• Shawn Wilson, Ph.D.

Preventable Reasons for Adolescent Suicide

Adolescent suicide has become a part of the national conversation of mental health and was (semi-)recently the focus of the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why." The show itself had some controversies about glamorizing suicide and the concept of "revenge suicide." No matter what one's thoughts about this series, it is clear that a conversation about adolescent suicide is needed. Unfortunately, adolescent suicide has been increasing over the past few years and we all need to be better informed about what triggers suicide and what interventions can work to prevent suicide.

An article by the New York Times discusses some research on suicide, including different evidence-based ways to prevent adolescent suicide. Here are a few things that research indicate are related to a recent increase in adolescent suicide.

  1. Media coverage: When the media sensationalizes or normalizes suicide, it increases the likelihood that there will be many other 'copycat' suicides. This is especially true when the media provides graphic descriptions of the suicide method as well as pictures of the victims.

  2. Access to guns: Guns are an extremely lethal method of completing suicide. There are approximately twice as many gun deaths due to suicide each year compared to homicides and guns were involved in about a half of suicides completed by individuals ages 15 to 24.

  3. Being isolated from others: At least partially due to the increased online presence adolescents have with social media and other online activities, adolescents are spending less time face-to-face with their peers. This increases the chance adolescents will feel withdrawn and isolated, which can become particularly problematic when they are bullied online.

There are other, more systemic issues that need to be addressed including the high number of adolescents living in poverty, the lack of access to medical and mental health services, and reducing the stigma of mental illness.

So as a parent of an adolescent, what is one to do? Monitor your child's media exposure to the best of your ability, make sure that all firearms at home are safely secured, and encourage your child to spend time with others, perhaps as part of a sports team or other organized group. In general, all of us should continue to educate ourselves with warning signs of suicide and ways to prevent suicide from organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Even one death to suicide is one too many. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are resources available such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255), the Trevor Project for LGBT+ youth (866-488-7386), or 911 if it is an emergency.

Article link: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/upshot/preventing-teen-suicide-what-the-evidence-shows.html

The Clinically Relevant Insights Blog, part of ShawnWilsonPhD.com, shares news and research regarding psychology and wellness.

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© 2020 by Shawn Wilson