Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 24 according to the charts by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). That means more teens die by suicide than by heart disease, aids, cancer, and influenza every year. The statistic above is not anything new, suicide has constantly been in the top three spots since the CDC updated the leading cause of death chart in 1999. This is a shocking phenomenon. That is where the issue lies, the lack of knowledge in one of the nation’s top reasons for death for young adults. With the continued, quiet disposition society places around suicide, the statistics will rise. Suicide awareness needs to increase in America before suicide becomes the number one cause of death in young adults.
As defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is: ‘death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with an intent to die as a result of the behavior.” Considering the detrimental impact suicide has on teens, let’s look at what causes it. There is no one single definite cause that makes someone commit suicide; instead, it is a multitude of factors. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), ‘Causes of suicidal distress include psychological, environmental, and social factors.” They go along to say, ‘The risk for suicide frequently occurs in combination with external circumstances that seem to overwhelm at-risk teens who are unable to cope with the challenges of adolescence because of predisposing vulnerabilities such as mental disorders” (APA). Now, let’s take a look at these factors to help further show the impact they have in a teens life.
To start, let us look at the psychological facts that may cause a teen to commit suicide. Many consider the psychological aspect the main contributor to the rising mental health in the nation. Many who suffer from psychological issues may have had emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, neglect, isolation, and things along those lines. Through inabilities to cope with negative psychological events, one may develop or triggers a mental health disorder increasing their risk of committing suicide. Second, environmental factors such as the loss of a relationship or friendship, access to firearms and harmful substances, being exposed to suicide, and being a victim of abuse are all strong influencers in teens lives. Lastly, social situations consist of the struggle to seek help, lack of treatment places, believing suicide is a solution, and influences from television and social media. Social environment and surroundings play a key role in how one grows up. When negative or overpowering, these factors all combine and play a key role in the emotional distress and lack of will to live.
Now that we have talked about the causes, let’s talk about the effects suicide has on our society. This growing problem has plagued the nation for centuries and has made a detrimental impact on society. We as a society try our best to avoid discussing death, especially when it comes to teen suicide. It is a difficult subject, and the stigma surrounding it in everyday life doesn’t help. What we as a nation need to realize is that suicide affects us all. Once someone kills themselves their environment and social group changes.
Considering the causes and effects of teen suicide there are many ways the nation could go by helping those in need. According to Wodarski and Harris (1987): ‘The solution to adolescent suicide requires maximum effort by social forces capable of affecting change. Families schools, peers, communities, business, and the media all possess the influence to eradicate this social problem.” Overall the article said, it is a social issue that takes a village to help reduce teen suicide.
The main way to do this is by addressing suicide differently than we are right now. A way to start is by addressing it in school. Since school is one of the most influential aspects of a teen’s life before adulthood, learning about issues can help reduce the uncertainty around the issue. The government needs to implement programs in schools and communities that allows for suicide along with mental health to be discussed. According to the APA, there is a new program being built in schools, ‘Stop a Suicide Today is a school-based suicide prevention program […] emphasizes the relationship between suicide and mental illness and the notion that a key step in reducing suicide is to get those in need into mental health treatment” (APA). Programs such as this could spark a whole new change, especially in teaching teens the warning signs and ways to help others around them. Along with that, we need to teach teachers, bosses, and parents, how to help someone with a mental illness that might be thinking about committing suicide. Having people know about this issue and being able to stop it will greatly help solve teen suicide.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one way to combat the growing issue of suicide is by creating better living environments for teens so people feel more secure in their everyday life. In such ways such as, reducing the means a person has to commit suicide, a reasonable solution. Americans need to act upon the easy access to guns in households, and according to the American Academy of Pediatricians, ‘Suicide by firearm among American youth topped a 12-year high in 2013, with most of the deaths involving a gun belonging to a family member.” This could easily be lowered by securing guns in home places where teens cannot gain access to them.
The social aspect is where America needs to be fixed the most. America needs to change their viewpoint on suicide, and needs to see people, not as objects that can be fixed easily, but rather complex human being who needs help to become stronger. Suicide is brought up in our society when there is a public headline for it, that just further sends the message that no one will truly listen or react to someone unless they commit suicide or some form of risk such as that. The nation needs to not show suicide in a negative light, it is always in. A way to start this is by changing stigma surrounding it on media platforms.
One example of teen suicide in media was the recently released show in 2017, Thirteen Reasons Why. This show sired a lot of controversy in its portrayal of suicide and the main characters way of handling it. The show is centered on a girl’s struggle with her life, but the main controversy in it is when she committed suicide. According to an article on People magazine Dr. Victor Schwartz who worked for a suicide prevention program said, ‘It created great conversation, but now kids may think suicide is what happens when people wrong you” (Minutaglio and Harris). The show portrayed her suicide as a tool for accomplishing her end in relation to revenge and/or recognition, and that is where the issue lies. This shows showing of suicide is incorrect and devalues efforts made prior to this explaining to complex reasons why people commit this. What needs to be done instead of creating shows that glorify suicide and shows it as an escape from present issues, the media should be using their platform to increase awareness of the growing issues involving mental health. If we change how mental health and suicide are shown on television, then the millions who watch those channels will understand the complexity of these issues for the better.
Death is one of the hardest things for anyone to discuss, especially with suicide. But without suicide in people’s conversation, it won’t stop. There need to be steps taken to reduce the second leading cause of death for those 10-24 years of age. Whether psychological, environmental, or social, every factor that plays a part in the prominence of suicide and mental health needs to be addressed. This needs to be addressed in all aspects of a teen’s life from, schools, home, media, and anywhere else. As America should agree, suicide is never the answer, but teens might need help to understand why that is. With the help of everyone, we can reduce suicide statistics and grow in our knowledge of mental health. Together, through these solutions, we can change the teenage suicide epidemic in America.
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