Depression is one of the leading causes of teenage suicide, but it’s only one of many psychiatric disorders that can lead to suicidal behavior. Psychiatric disorders are the leading cause of teen suicide, often in conjunction with a pattern of substance abuse. These problems create an environment of increased risk which can then be exacerbated by outside situations such as abuse or bullying.
There are of course environmental stimulants that can influence a teenager’s likelihood to consider suicide. These range from problems at home, such as living in a violent or abusive domestic environment, to bullying at school, to risky sexual behavior. When these situations present themselves, they can quickly become destructive, especially for teenagers who already have risk factors.
It is possible for a friend or family member to notice warning signs of suicide. Many of these include significant behavioral changes, such as being distracted and unable to focus on work and school, eating or sleeping poorly, or becoming antisocial, nervous, or disinterested in activities. Some teenagers may engage in increasingly bizarre or risky behavior or begin self-harm practices such as cutting or burning. Similarly, they may become violent toward others.
There are other, sometimes more explicit warning signs present in speech. If a teenager expresses a desire or intention to die or harm themselves, it is extremely important that their words not be brushed off or dismissed. This kind of language should always be taken seriously. Sometimes a suicidal tendency may not be as explicitly expressed as a desire to die, but rather through mysterious or cryptic language discussing disappearing or no longer “being a burden” to others.
Many people fear that by talking to a friend or family member who seems to be expressing suicidal tendencies, they will only make the problem worse or “tip them over the edge”. But there is everything to gain from addressing the issue and everything to lose from ignoring it. Talking to someone who seems to be considering suicide is more likely to help them, provided it is done in a helpful and loving manner. People should never be accusatory in speaking to a person considering suicide, but rather gentle and reassuring, telling them that there is help available and they have people who love and support them.
Hopefully, this form of gentle intervention will help the person seek counseling to help them address why they feel hopeless or frustrated. Of course, if it is an emergency situation, others should always call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Through the help of caring friends and counselors, teens can move past considering suicide or self-harm.