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Suicide is Forever

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grave Every 100 minutes another teenager will commit suicide.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 14 to 25 in the United States.

The following statistics were taken from a recent survey of college and high school students by the CDC.

Twenty-seven percent of high school students said they had "thought seriously" about killing themselves during the past year. Eight percent said they had actually tried to kill themselves.

Ten percent of U.S. college students admitted serious thoughts about suicide. Seven percent had a suicide plan.

More than 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year, and 5,000 of these people are teenagers.

Although one of every eight teenagers suffers with depression, the diagnosis is often missed, as depressive symptoms are often mistaken for the typical 'ups and downs' of teenage life. Even in societies where suicide is illegal or taboo, people still kill themselves.

Most suicides occur in the home between the hours of 3 PM to midnight. There are 30 to 50 times as many attempted suicides as completed suicides. Four times as many males complete suicide than females, but female teens attempt suicide twice as frequently as male teenagers.

Statistics also show that kids from high-income families kill themselves as often as those from poor or middle-class teens.

For every teenage suicide, there are more than 100 unsuccessful attempts. ”Copycat” suicides spread the tragedy even further.

People who talk about suicide often commit suicide. All talk about suicide should be taken seriously. People often have opposing feelings about whether or not they want to die, so there is always hope that they can change their minds if they receive professional help.

Many who attempt suicide are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Be aware of this signal. Many attempts are impulsive acts; so be aware of the following warning signs.

If you suspect a friend is contemplating suicide, take the initiative and just ask the person, "Are you thinking about killing or harming yourself?" and "How are you going to kill yourself?" This will often get them to talk about it. Be straight with them, get right to the subject. Tell an adult, a teacher, a guidance counselor, or their parents about your concern for your friend's safety.

There is a suicide hotline phone number in almost every phone book and on the Internet. In the U.S., call the Suicide & Crisis Hotline 1-800-999-9999. The Suicide National Hotline in the U.S. is: 1-800-273-8255. The person may get angry with you initially, but it may save your friend's life.

Some people who are suicidal are very good at hiding their emotional pain, that is why it is okay to just come out and ask if you think someone is hurting on the inside. Very often those people are appearing cheerful and popular on the outside to mask their pain and suicidal thoughts on the inside. See the “ Survivor’s Story”.

Your concern and intervention may be all that is needed to get him or her to vent their feelings and change his or her mind. If someone exhibits self-destructive behavior, this is often a warning sign that he or she is seriously considering suicide, not just trying to get attention, as it was once thought.

Remember, just because a suicidal person may get professional help and overcome his suicidal feelings, this in itself does not mean those feelings will not return, especially when the person is confronted once again by the stress and the problems that caused him or her to consider suicide in the first place.

Often teens think they are immortal. Remind anyone who is talking about killing themselves that suicide is very permanent and that you care if they are here with you in this world.

The numbers are disturbing to many adults, and yet, they only partially convey the tragedy of teen and young adult suicide. Each and every victim leaves behind a void in the hearts of their friends, their schools and an ongoing ache in the hearts of their families and loved ones. I know, I am one of them.

Some Warning Signs of Suicide

Some warning signs of suicide are:

anger or hostility
inability to feel pleasure
feeling hopeless
isolation or withdrawal
sleeping too much
loss of appetite
preoccupation with death
giving things away that were once valued
ending significant relationships or commitments (breaking up)
sudden uplift in mood after depression
sudden change in behavior or disruptive behavior
promiscuity (being very sexually active)
severe outbursts of temper
excessive substance use
absence from school or work
inability to carry out normal tasks of daily life
inability to laugh

Some Types of Suicidal Behaviors

About 60% of teen suicide deaths occur using a hand gun. Teen girls attempt suicide far more often than guys (about nine times), but guys are about four times more likely to succeed. Why is this different?

Male teens tend to use more deadly methods, like guns or hanging themselves. Girls most often attempt suicide by overdosing with medication or by some form of self-injury. Suicide deaths can occur from pills, medications and other harmful substances, especially if these substances are mixed.

Sometimes a depressed person plans an act of suicide in advance. (Often the planning of an act gives the person some feeling of control). Most often however, suicide attempts are “impulsive acts”.

These acts occur during a time of feeling overwhelmingly upset. A situation like a breakup, an unintended pregnancy, the death of a sibling, a fight with a parent or boyfriend or girlfriend, being harmed by abuse or rape, or being victimized in any way can cause a young person to feel desperately upset.

“Coming out” for homosexual teens can also lead to suicidal attempts if that person is no longer accepted by their family or friends.

In situations such as these, teens may fear humiliation, rejection, social isolation, or another consequence they think they can’t handle. Suicide attempts occur under conditions like this because in desperation and confusion, some teens see no other way out.

Risk Factors For Teenage Suicide:

Previous Attempts -- Teens who attempt suicide remain vulnerable for several years, especially for the first three months following an attempt. These people may become very clever about hiding their true feelings. Keep in contact with them.
Personal Failure -- High standards (the teen's or the parents') that are not met, even after only one setback, may set off a downward spiral ending in suicide.
Recent Loss -- Death of close friends or family, divorce, breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend may leave a teenager so lost and alone that suicide seems the only option.
Substance Abuse -- Some teens abuse drugs or alcohol to self-medicate overwhelming depression; a combination of depression, substance abuse, and lowered impulse control can end in a suicide attempt. This is often a fatal combination.
Family Handguns -- A gun in the house may make it easy for a troubled teen to commit suicide; children of law-enforcement officers have a much higher rate of suicide because of the accessibility of guns. If you think your son or friend is in danger of harming himself, please have someone remove that gun from the home!
Family Violence -- Violence in the home teaches youths that the way to resolve conflict is through violence.
Lack of Communication -- The inability to discuss angry or uncomfortable feelings within the family can lead to suicide. Anger turned inward often leads to depression.

Remember, if someone you know says, "I want to kill myself", or "I'm going to commit suicide", take the statements seriously and immediately seek the help of a trusted adult, such a teacher, nurse, parent or counselor.

Experts feel it’s okay to ask a depressed teen if he or she is thinking about suicide. Asking this question provides assurance that somebody cares and might give the young person the opportunity to talk about their problems. Also, take the time to learn more about depression. You might just save a life. The death of a young person is always a tragedy.

People with schizophrenia have a higher rate of suicide than the general population. Approximately 10 percent of people with schizophrenia (especially young adult males) commit suicide. Unfortunately, the prediction of suicide in people with schizophrenia can be especially difficult.

Teens with Generalized Anxiety Disorders may also be at greater risk for suicide attempts.

Talking About Suicide — One Survivor’s “Story”

hospital"Suicide is a subject often taboo to mention, and one that's likely to get a mixture of reactions from people, its not something I tell most people I meet. In the past, I've overdosed four times and ended up in the hospital having my stomach pumped. I have tried the toaster and the boom box in the bath tub, it doesn't work, I don't recommend it. It’s not worth getting hospitalized for a psychiatric reason. A psychiatric institution is kind of like prison, although I have never been in prison. They tell you when you can eat and where you have to be when. You have no privacy. If I wanted to shave (I am a guy), I had to have someone with me, to make sure I wouldn't hurt myself. If I wanted to use my acne cleanser pads, the nurse had to give them to me and watch me use them because they have alcohol in them and some people would try to suck on them, just to get their "fix" of alcohol. Shoe laces are not allowed until they think you are no longer a danger to yourself. So no shoe laces in anyone's sneakers or shoes. You have to go to group therapy, even when you don't want to. It is very regimented.

For a long time, I've lived with the comfortable "emergency exit" trap door in my mind, marked with "Well, if things get too bad, I can always kill myself." At a particularly low point a couple of years ago, I fantasized daily about hanging myself. It was the final way out. The knowledge that I didn't have to put up with the daily grind and pain of my life if I didn't choose to, was sort of a comfort.

I'm not going to advocate anything to you here, one way or the other. I have no right to do that. Nor does anyone else have the right to give such directives to another person. I am just talking about my own experience, because maybe someone will read this who feels suicidal sometimes.

If you're feeling suicidal, and don't want to feel that way; you know that the feelings are due to the pain, isolation, healing, or whatever you're going through, and you want some pointers and things to hold on to, to help to pull you out of your despair, then I suggest you go to a support group and hear what they have to say. You will realize when you are with other people who have been very depressed that you are not alone with your feelings.

As for me right now? Well, I see a shrink and am in group therapy now. I like the people in the group and their attitudes. But I'm also still here, alive, taking antidepressants, with no definite plans to kill myself at the moment. I have a partner, who is a very large part of the reason why I want to stay alive -- I really don't want her to feel the pain of my death. But that doesn't mean that the emergency exit has been sealed up. I just try to live my life one day at a time and I often find that I do get pleasure out of life, from simple things and I am glad to still be alive."

- Jerry, age 19 -- California, USA - 2000 --

Update from Jerry - Age 21, - Sept, 2002: I’m still here on this planet. I’ve got a new job that I like, I still see my shrink -- without him, I think I’d be lost or dead. I am on medication which does help me a lot (it works for me, not pushing it on anyone else). I’m glad to be able to tell you that being a teen is so difficult at times, I was very close to death at one point, but I’m really happy to still be alive. Sure, I have my moments of 'darkness' and doubts about myself and my future, and then they pass, thanks to some unknown force. Good luck on your journey. If you are feeling really down, call a friend; just keep trying something.

Recommending Reading: (From Teen Health Secrets -- I have read all of these, all are very good). Click on the the book for more information or to order. If you could only read one... I would chose, "No One Saw My Pain", the middle one, it’s about Teenage Suicide.

Making Sense of Suicide: Complete Guide to Why People Kill Themselves
- An in depth look at why people kill themselves. (Kurt Cobain photo on cover).

No One Saw My Pain: Why Teens Kill Themselves
- A psychiatrist specializing in depression and crisis intervention, sheds light on this situation.

Why Suicide?
  Answers to the most frequently asked question from those in pain and survivors in the wake of suicide.


Kurt Cobain filled dozens of notebooks with lyrics, drawings, and writings about his plans for Nirvana and his thoughts about fame, the state of music, and the people who bought his music. Over 20 of these notebooks survived his many moves and travels and have been locked in a safe since his death (a suicide). Now, for the first time, his journals reveal an artist who loved records, who knew the history of rock, and was determined to define his place in that history. A sad loss; great book! - January 26, 2003 - still a bestseller.

When Nothing Matters Anymore - A Survival Guide for Depressed Teens - by Bev Cobain I n 1994, rock star Kurt Cobain ended his struggle with depression and chemical dependency by taking his own life. His suicide stunned millions of teens around the world who identified with the music of his band, Nirvana. Bev Cobain is Kurt's cousin, and this powerful book is her way of dealing with his death -- and reaching out to teens with lifesaving facts and advice. Bev defines and explains depression, describes the symptoms, and emphasizes that depression is treatable. Teens learn to recognize depression, understand its effects, take better care of themselves, and talk with people who care.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Hotline Number (1-800-273-TALK)
US Suicide Hotline 1-800-999-9999
Kids Help Phone (Canada) 1-800-668-6868
Suicide Prevention - The Trevor HelpLine - (Specializing in gay and lesbian youth suicide prevention). 1-800-850-8078
1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
Check out our Hotlines page for additional hotlines if you need one.

MORE related reading:

Check out the Suicide FAQ page.

Check out Depression and When A Friend is Depressed.

Self-Injury and 'stories' from those who self-injure.

Take the Quiz on Depression & rate your knowledge.

A letter from a teen to her friend who committed suicide.

What is Schizophrenia?

Social Anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorders

Back to the Mental Health Section

Some Resources on the Web :

  Prevention of Suicide - Yellow Ribbon

Suicide Information

Help After Loss - (Grief Net)

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