Suicide, as they say, is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
It’s a crying shame more people don’t realize that before they take that drastic step. However, most people who kill themselves – teenagers especially – are not thinking rationally when they commit suicide. Emotions – horribly bad emotions – are doing their “thinking” for them.
The statistics are devastating. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the United States among youth ages 15 to 24. It’s the sixth leading cause of death among children ages 5 to 14.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 19.3 percent of high school students have seriously considered suicide, and 14.5 percent had made actual plans to do it.
Recognition of suicidal behavior and treatments for it have improved, but there is still a long way to go. The stigma related to suicide must end. Too often, suicide is something people whisper about or pretend does not exist or won’t happen to anyone they know or love. That stigma, that denial, is what most often interferes with people brushing off the serious signs of impending suicide or suicide attempts.
Parents, professionals and friends should learn and remember behavioral signs that could lead to suicide. Here is a list of some of them:
Personality changes, unexplained depression, loss of interest in daily living, trouble sleeping, sudden fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, withdrawal from friends and family, feelings of sadness, irritability, aggressive or defiant attitudes, extreme anxiety or panic, neglect of appearance and hygiene, trouble concentrating, poor school performance, the sudden giving away of personal property, drug and/or alcohol abuse.
Those behavioral troubles do not necessarily mean someone is suicidal, but – nonetheless – they do cry out to be taken care of, to find root causes, to get effective treatments. If parents or friends think someone is about to commit suicide, they should immediately seek help – even if it involves an intervention involving counselors, the police or other professionals.
Children who feel connected, supported and understood by adults and peers are much less likely to ponder thoughts of suicide. Good parents and others realize love and understanding are the best preventive “medicines.”
Teenage suicide is utterly devastating in that it leaves a black void in their loved ones that never really goes away. Survivors are often plagued by guilt and the head-hammering question of Why? Why? Why? That is why support groups are essential for loved ones of people who killed themselves. Unfortunately, not enough of those groups exist.
To prevent suicide, people must remain aware, heed the warning signs and always take a suicide threat seriously by seeking help for the person. Having a suicide help-line number written in the phone book is also a good idea. The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine toll-free number is 1-800-950-6264.