Suicide in Adolescence
Suicide can be considered as a silent and sometimes unpredictable leading cause of death among teenagers. Suicidal ideation among adolescents can be attributed to psychological, family, physical, emotional, and social factors. The need to fit in and the lack of social support can trigger depression from hopelessness, which contributes to suicidal ideation and execution. Adolescents are the most endangered group regarding exposure to suicide ideation triggers; in this regard, more suicide deaths are reported among adolescents (Kennebeck et al., 2017). The paper will address suicide risk factors, signs or characteristics, gender differences concerning non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), and attention seeking behavior. The role of parents in adolescence suicide, prevention programs, reasons why teenagers commit suicide, as well as, suicidal thoughts will be addressed. Anxiety, stress, and depression are the main psychological factors associated with suicidal ideation, attempts, and deaths.
Suicide Risk Factors Among Adolescents
Suicide is a broad health issue because it can be triggered by factors associated with social media use, family dispute, economic stressors, academic stress, bullying, or traumatic experiences. Most teens are likely to fall into the suicide ideation trap because changes in behavior are often overlooked (Kennebeck et al., 2017). During adolescence, changes in personality can be confused with the natural growth process in which teenagers’ psychical and psychological attributes change. Adolescents tend to commit suicide in response to challenges in life; for instance, a teenager who constantly disagrees with his/her parents is likely to feel neglected, which can trigger suicidal thoughts. According to Silva et al. (2014), teens respond to stress within the family or school differently; this can be confusing for parents and educators. Teens that tend to mask their emotions are likely to commit suicide or develop suicidal thoughts because depression and anxiety affect cognition and decision-making ability. It is undeniable that adolescence comes with naivety; heavy social media use to fit in or due to addiction is a suicide risk factor.
Teenagers seek for approval on social media platforms by posting pictures and expecting positive comments by other users. In most cases, social media use results in suicide after one lacks the social support he/she was expecting. Although it is unwise to align emotions with people’s opinions, teenagers tend to fall for the trap, which triggers depression and suicide thoughts, attempts or deaths. Strandheim et al. (2014), assert that teens can commit suicide due to bullying associated with body weight, height, or racial and ethnic discrimination. Economic stressors in adolescence suicide affect the teenager’s access to the life they would prefer, which causes dissatisfaction (Strandheim et al., 2014). The lack of motivation due to poor school performance, coupled with family financial struggles results in stress and depression. Teenagers tend to live on peer-pressure, which involves buying trending clothes, shoes, smartphones, or even traveling. Comparing one’s life with that of others creates mental pressure, this can trigger suicidal thoughts and attempts (Silva et al., 2014). Teenagers can also commit suicide due to bullying associated with sexuality; adolescents belonging to the gay community are at a higher risk.
Generic Signs and Characteristics
Although teens respond differently to stressors and changes in life during adolescence, suicide signs are noticeable with proper intervention and behavior analysis. One of the signs associated with suicide is ideation. Parents and educators can predict the likelihood of a teenager attempting or committing suicide based on weird conversations about death, suicide, or dying (Kennebeck et al., 2017). In the modern technology era, teenagers can look for ways to kill or harm oneself from the Internet. Another sign of suicide among adolescents is substance use. Increased alcohol use and smoking are associated with stress and anxiety, especially from traumatic or inconveniencing experiences (Kwon et al., 2016). In this regard, parents and educators can predict the risk of teenagers committing suicide based on their indulgence in drug use and unhealthy lifestyle. It is worth noting that drug use exposes one to social stigma, which can be stressing. It also contributes to the lack of purpose in life, as one struggles from day to day with mental health issues.
Hopelessness is another sign associated with suicide among adolescents; individuals tend to feel like they are trapped in an endless bad situation. In so doing, they lack the motivation to live on a daily basis, which triggers suicidal thoughts. According to Kwon et al. (2016), being hopeless affects one’s decision-making ability, thus, rendering them cognitively unaware of the possible remedies to problems in life. Hopeless teenagers tend to withdraw from family, society, and friends. Failure to intervene in examining the cause of stress and depression can trigger violent and reckless acts, which increase the likelihood of committing suicide. Withdrawal from friends is disastrous considering that depression and stress can only be minimized by sharing, but not isolation. Being alone increases agitation, changes in sleep pattern, worry, and fear, which, in turn, affect mental health resulting in suicidal attempts and deaths (Kwon et al., 2016). Loneliness and hopelessness are closely linked to hostile behaviors. Violence against family members, friends, or siblings should be discouraged in efforts to minimize the aspect of suffering in adolescents’ lives. All signs and behavioral characteristics of suicide discussed are linked to one’s psychological well-being, which indicates that minimizing stressors can help prevent adolescence suicides.
Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) Prevalence Based on Gender
In a study by Yang & Feldman on gender differences in the prevalence of NSSI, it was concluded that specific gender differences exist in NSSI incidence among Chinese adolescents. In the study, NSSI prevalence among middle school students showed that girls are likely to inflict self-injury than boys. For college-going youths, it was established that males had a higher NSSI prevalence than females (Yang & Feldman, 2018). The authors acknowledged that NSSI behavior patterns in China were different compared to Western countries. Gender role socialization and differences in hormones make women more susceptible to NSSI behavior. Young girls, especially in modern society are likely to experience low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction considering that beauty is defined differently. Compared to boys, teenage girls are likely to struggle with sexuality and sexual orientation, which can trigger hopelessness and self-hate (Young et al., 2014). Boys are less likely to engage in NSSI behaviors compared to girls, which can be attributed to challenges presented by gender differences. On this subject, adolescents who identify as LGBT are more likely to engage in NSSI behaviors because of discrimination, which causes stress and depression.
Misconceptions about NSSI and Attention Seeking Behavior
One of the common misconceptions about NSSI is that people who self-injure only belong to the psychiatric population. This is because individuals with poor emotion regulation, anxiety, and depression caused by socio-economic factors also practice NSSI behaviors. Another common misconception is that NSSI cases are only prevalent in women. Research shows nearly equivalent rates in NSSI prevalence among adolescents (Klonsky, Victor & Saffer, 2014). NSSI behaviors are mistaken for attention seeking; this can be harmful to the teenagers involved considering that suicide attempts and deaths are associated with mental health. The truth is that NSSI behaviors are preceded by intense negative emotions, which trigger illogical and harmful thoughts. It is illogical to only attribute all NSSI behaviors to psychiatric populations considering that self-punishment, emotion regulation, and interpersonal influence such behaviors.
Suicidal teenagers use attention-seeking behaviors to gain the attention of their friends and family. In this regard, individuals should be supported in varying ways to ease the pressure that comes with depression and anxiety from bullying, family struggles, or economic stressors. Adolescents that portray attention-seeking behavior should not be discriminated because doing so would risk their mental health and future communication (Klonsky, Victor & Saffer, 2014). The need to inform one’s family, friends, or colleagues indirectly stems from the psychological impact of stress. On this note, it is important to follow-up on behaviors associated with self-harm so that individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts can feel supported in the mental health journey. It is important to acknowledge that teen suicide is caused by various reasons, which are linked to mental health.
Roles Parents Play in Adolescence Suicide
Parents have a significant role to play in the mental health of their children, especially during adolescence. One the important roles parents can play in their teenage daughter or son’s mental health is evaluating behaviors to note changes that indicate anxiety and depression. Parents need to be supportive of their teenage children because social support is crucial during the phase of emotional, psychological, and physical body changes (Klein, 2016). Teenagers need constant approval and guidance to make healthy decisions that would limit anxiety and stress. Parents have the mandate to restrict teenagers from smoking and alcohol use. This is because one’s overall health is crucial to their mental health, which, in turn, relates to decision-making ability. Parents can help teenagers with suicidal thoughts and ideation by intervening to take them to therapy programs to encourage behavior change (Klein, 2016). Counseling programs use client-focused therapy approaches to set behavior change goals and engage the client in achieving them. Parents are discouraged against overlooking the seriousness of suicidal ideation incidences by their teenage children. Doing so risks continued indulgence in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use, which then triggers the execution of suicide plans as earlier insinuated.
On the other hand, parents play a role in triggering teens’ suicidal thoughts, ideation, and attempts. Conflicts within the family trigger stress among adolescents because they feel disengaged and neglected (Klein, 2016). Failure to communicate properly can create an awkward mood in which personal conversations are inconvenient or result in disagreements. Parents should help their teenage children in the growth and development process by downplaying the need to compare one’s life with others. Family financial struggles result in poor living standards and the lack of resources, which can trigger stress (Klein, 2016). Adolescents want to live based on trends and thus, lack of access to fancy clothes and technology devices can lead to depression and anxiety. The re-occurrence of suicidal thoughts among teenagers is common despite undergoing therapeutic counseling. Parents have the role to follow-up and communicate with teenagers to ensure suicide signs are addressed at the less serious level. Neglecting the parental role of leading by example can influence teenagers to act recklessly, which exposes them to mental health issues and suicide.
Suicidal thoughts, also known as suicidal ideation, refers to the act of imagining, explaining, or enquiring to know more about killing oneself and self-harm. The only applicable way of controlling suicidal thoughts and attempts or deaths is by minimizing teenage exposure to stressors. It is worth noting that most teenagers have suicidal thoughts due to varying experiences in daily life; however, not all pursue them to illogical conclusions (Silva et al., 2014). The involvement of parents, peers, and educators can help in highlighting challenges in one’s life. Sharing personal problems is no common occurrence during the teenage years because individuals are only discovering more about life. In this regard, suicidal thoughts are common across the gender spectrum. The need to execute suicidal thoughts resulting in death is triggered by hopelessness and irrational decision-making ability (Silva et al., 2014). Suicidal thoughts should be discouraged to minimize chances of individuals planning or attempting suicide. Suicide notes and messages left by deceased teenagers show that ignorance by parents, close relatives, or even therapists play a crucial role in the conclusion of suicide thoughts.
Suicide Prevention and Awareness Programs for Adolescents
Suicide cases among adolescents can be prevented by creating awareness on behaviors and risk factors that lead to hopelessness and careless character. Prevention programs can be grouped into violence prevention, generic social and cognitive skills building, multi-component, multi-domain, and programs designed to change school ecology. Violence prevention programs create awareness of behaviors that can expose on to stressors to the extent of choosing to cause self-harm or hurting others (Greenberg, Domitrovich & Bumbarger, 1999). Teachers and behavior therapists can engage teenagers in devising ways to approach issues without resolving to violence. Impulse control, anger management, and empathy are essential aspects that should be taught in violence prevention programs. It is important to note that minimizing conflicts influences mental health by reducing stress, which improves one’s cognitive decision-making ability. Teaching teenagers how to respond through positive ways can result in the development of empathy and respect for others (Greenberg, Domitrovich & Bumbarger, 1999). This influences self-respect and love, which, in turn, prevents self-harm and execution of suicidal thoughts.
Programs such as the Social Decision-Making and Social Problem Solving (SDS-SPS) help student to balance social, educational emotional, and behavior aspects for better mental health and less stress. Students enrolled in the program can benefit from sharing personal issues, understanding normal body changes, and more knowledge on how the society works. Bullying based on individual differences in appearance, opinions/views/ or gender can be solved by engaging in SDM-SPS (Greenberg, Domitrovich & Bumbarger, 1999). Adolescence suicide thoughts, deaths, and injuries can also be prevented through awareness creation on drug use. Teenagers tend to resolve to drug use in efforts to comprehend changes in life and make peer friends. Drugs cause inconsistencies in behavior and communication, which affect interpersonal relations.
Suicide cases are common among adolescents; research indicates that the planning and conclusion of suicidal thoughts are linked to mental health. Undeniably, teenagers are likely to make naïve decisions, which expose them to unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety. The uncertainty that comes with personal growth and development, as well as, social pressure and expectations triggers stress among teens. Other predisposing factors include conflicts within the family, poor performance in school, bullying in social situations, and low self-esteem. Equipping children and youths with effective communication and interpersonal skills can prevent suicide deaths and injuries.
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