Sadly, according to the American Psycholocigal Association (APA) teenage suicide is the third cause of preventable death in the United States (the first is accident; the second, homicide).
The reasons teens take their own lives can be complex and varied. The causes are often socially motivated, but actually mental illness plays the greater role. Sometime mental illness is diagnosed, sometimes it is not. Common mental illnesses in teens include depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Another top factor is substance abuse. There is no socio-economic group that is NOT at risk. Suicides occur in all income brackets, in both urban, suburban, and rural communities.
In recent years, prevention efforts have included intensive school education programs, more crisis hotlines, and social networking efforts like the very successful "It Gets Better" campaign which tries to reach at-risk gay teens, who are five times more likely to attempt suicide as straight teens.
All of these increased efforts have led those involved in psychology and social sciences to compile a list of the most frequent indicators that a teen may be considering suicide. Those indicators are as follows:
- Talking About Dying -- any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self harm
- Recent Loss -- through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed
- Change in Personality -- sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
- Change in Behavior -- can't concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
- Change in Sleep Patterns -- insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares
- Change in Eating Habits -- loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
- Fear of losing control - acting erratically, harming self or others
- Low self esteem -- feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, "everyone would be better off without me"
- No hope for the future -- believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change