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The Reality of Teen Suicide

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I have been saddened by the recent suicide of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski. It is hard for me to fathom the pain his parents are suffering at the loss of their son. There are really no words for the shock and grief that is felt on so many levels.

Unfortunately, teen suicide is not as uncommon as you might think. Each year, there are thousands of teens that commit suicide. Suicides are the 3rd leading cause of death for 15–24 year olds. In 2000, the CDC reported 1 out of 12 teens attempts suicide and up to 1 in 5 teens state that they have contemplated suicide at some point during their adolescent years. The statistics also show that the incidence of teen suicide has been increasing over the last years, which seems to correlate with the mounting pressures, both real and perceived, that our youth feel. As an adult I think "what could be that terrible to drive a teen to end their life when so much lies ahead of them?”.  But a teen’s brain is not fully developed, and as any parent with a teen knows, teenagers are often impulsive with little thought of the true consequences of their actions.

Teen suicides are usually related to depression, anxiety, confusion and the feeling that life is not worth living. An event such as a break up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, substance abuse, or failure at school may lead to suicide.

There are also gender differences among teens who commit suicide.  Teen girls are more likely to attempt suicide than teen boys. With that being said, teen boys are more likely to complete a suicide.  Girls are more likely to use an overdose of drugs to attempt suicide while boys are more likely to shoot themselves.  While a girl may use an overdose or cutting  as a “call for help”, there is often little opportunity for  intervention with a male who sustains a self inflicted gun shot or may even hang themselves.  Male suicide attempts are typically more violent and are 4 times more likely to be successful.

There are several things that parents, teachers and friends should be aware of as “warning signs” for adolescent depression and the possibility of suicide. A teen who suddenly becomes isolated, changes friends, has a change in their school attendance or grades,  has a substance abuse problem, is being bullied  or begins to make statements in reference to ending their life,  should be taken seriously. Professional help is absolutely necessary when dealing with these issues and parents should not attempt to “solve the teens problems” on their own.   

There are numerous resources available and the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE is a 24 hour service. Lastly, over half of teen suicide deaths are inflicted by guns.   Firearms should not be kept in a home unless they are locked, and the key should always be in the care of a parent.  It might also be prudent not to have ammunition in the house if you do have a gun. If an impulsive, depressed teen has to go buy ammunition before attempting suicide they might be more likely have an epiphany and realize that things are not as hopeless as they think.  Any deterrent may be all that is necessary to prevent a suicide and the ensuing heartbreak for all those that knew them.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue.

Your Teen

Experts Recommend Screening All Teens for Major Depression

1:30

Studies indicate that one-in-five U.S. children have some for of mental, behavioral or emotional problems.  Among teens, one –in- eight may suffer from depression with only about 30 percent receiving any treatment.  Those are troubling statistics for parents, caregivers and health professionals.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), believes more needs to be done to help these children and has recommended that primary care physicians screen all patients between the ages of 12 and 18 for major depression.

Screening tools are available to help primary care doctors accurately identify major depression in adolescent patients, and there are effective treatments for this age group, the task force said.

"Primary care clinicians can play an important role in helping to identify adolescents with major depressive disorder and getting them the care they need. Accordingly, the task force recommends that primary care clinicians screen all adolescents between 12 and 18 years old for this condition," task force member Dr. Alex Krist said in a USPSTF news release.

Currently, there isn’t enough evidence to know whether screening children 11 and younger would be beneficial. The task force noted that more research on depression screening and treatment in this age group is needed.

The consequences of undiagnosed and treated major depression in teens can have serious consequences such as involvement in the criminal justice system, drug or alcohol abuse and in some cases, suicide.

"It is important to take any concern about depression seriously, regardless of age, and any parent who has a concern about their child's mood or behavior should talk with their child's primary care clinician," he said in the news release. Kemper is a professor of pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, N.C.

The recommendation was published online Feb. 9 in the Annals of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.

For more information about child and teen depression, one resource is The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at http://www.aacap.org.

You can also talk with your family doctor or pediatrician if you feel your child is suffering from depression. They should have resources for you as well.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20160208/doctors-should-screen-teens-for-major-depression-us-task-force-says

 

 

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