Teenagers at Risk

Excerpt from the book “Need to Know: Teenage Suicide” by Claire Wallerstein

Nearly everyone who is suicidal is depressed. Depression may be caused by something obvious, such as suffering from abuse or a parent dying. Often it has no clear reason at all. It can make people feel utterly miserable, as if a black cloud is hanging over them which is never going to disappear. Very few depressed people actually kill themselves. However, other problems in their lives can sometimes act like a trigger, pushing them to thoughts of suicide.

Homelessness

For example, homeless children have a high risk of committing suicide. Many teenagers living rough have run away from problems at home such as sexual or physical abuse, or arguments with parents or step-parents. They may become victims of violence or abuse from other people living on the streets. This can deepen their anxiety and depression.

Drink and Drugs

Many teens use drink or drugs to help them forget about their problems. However, alcohol and drugs can make depression worse and affect a person’s ability to think straight. One young person in every three who commits suicide is drunk or on drugs.

Problems at School

Other children who may become suicidal are perfectionists or over-acheivers at school. Their parents, or they themselves, may set extremely high standards. They may not be able to cope with the pressure. Some may be victims of bullying. There is at least one bullying-related suicide, or “bullycide”, each month in the UK alone. The youngest victim was only eight years old. More than one-third of children experience bullying at some point.

Risk factors for suicide include:

  • Breaking up with a girlfriend/boyfriend or having had an abortion.
  • Being in prison. It can be difficult and frightening to cope with being locked up for a long period of time, sometimes with older, hardened criminals.
  • Homosexuality. Teenagers coming to terms with being gay are ten times more likely to commit suicide than others their age. They may feel under pressure to “live a lie”, keeping their sexuality secret from friends and family.
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