And how to put these lessons into action
Suicide prevention month (each September of the year) comes and goes, while the suicide rate continues to rise. As the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, suicide remains a national crisis. Leading us to believe that stronger action is needed to address mental health and prevent this tragic epidemic.
In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death among ages 10-24. Having one of the highest suicide rates tells us we need to look to the adolescent population to determine root causes and common denominators. How can we eliminate the mental health stigma that hinders young people from getting help? Why is the rate of anxiety and depression amongst teens and young adults on the rise? What societal changes or psychological factors have contributed to this growing rate? And, what if we could create a world we would all want to live in? A world where our rising generation felt seen, supported, and loved.
First we’ll break down the why factors for society’s youth being at high risk for suicide, and then dive into what we can do to prevent these numbers from rising in addition to teen therapy.
WHY the rising generation is most at risk:
It’s fairly safe to say that teens and social media accounts now come as a packaged deal. Social media is a wonderful tool for sharing and connecting with one another in a virtual space. However, with sharing comes comparing. Creating an Instagram account during the volatile and vulnerable times of teenage years has potential to develop negative feelings of self that can accompany the teen through young adulthood and beyond. Think about it: when we scroll through social media, we usually aren’t in a space of living life to the fullest at that exact moment. Furthermore, we typically tend to be alone when scrolling.
However, we see our peers in the virtual world wearing big smiles, posing in exotic places, or spending time with friends. Enter feelings of loneliness, fear of missing out (FOMO), and worst of all – the idea of being not enough. Comparison, even on a subconscious level, can be detrimental to a young person’s mental health. Again, social media has its time and place and comes with positive components. However, it is important to set boundaries and understand that the virtual space is far from the reality of our physical world – especially when thinking about this mindset as a means of teen suicide prevention.
With the surge of technology and recent increase of remote opportunities, our world is more online than ever. Furthermore, our education system has created a mindset of competing with our peers instead of empowering one another’s unique attributes. We are entered into the rat race at a young age, and are expected to quickly climb the ladder and compete with our friends to reach “success.” In this climb, we often sacrifice deep and meaningful relationships and connections which can be debilitating to mental health in adolescence years.
Looking at different parts of the world, people in different cultures are born into intimate village settings, with natural built in support systems to guide them through life’s ups and downs. When a single member of the village faces a challenge or crisis, the entire community becomes involved (in-person and in real-time). For example, villages in Indonesia shut down completely when a community member passes away. Schools and jobs close as the village makes time to support the family of the deceased, and partake in a daylong memorial service.
Of course, our current Western world is not established in this way. However, there is something to be said about the feeling of having a concrete and reliable support system to benefit our emotional health. Humans are social creatures by nature; this social aspect including deep connections during good times and bad.
WHAT we can do to prevent it:
Empower, don’t compete
When we empower one another, we gain confidence and inspiration to show our authenticity to the world. Instead of competing with friends, family, peers, and strangers, consciously work to point out positive qualities in them. Try this: think about how often you think a positive thought about someone, or say it to someone else behind their back. It could be as simple as “her hair is pretty” or “he has positive energy.” Now think how often you share these thoughts with this person. Usually, it’s not often. Next time you have a thought of positivity towards someone else (loved one or stranger), tell them. This simple compliment has potential to turn someone’s bad day around, or to encourage someone who is suicidal to keep going.
Create a sense of community
A sense of home is vital in feeling supported and loved. In this case, “home” doesn’t necessarily mean a house with a family, but the feeling that this generic example replicates. Home can be a loving partner, supportive circle of friends, tightly-bonded sports team, passionate volunteer group, etc. This definition of home has the potential to exist for everyone. It’s important to help someone who is struggling to find their personal “home.”
Look for the warning signs
More often than not, someone who is suicidal will not make it known in an obvious way they are looking to end their lives. Instead, they will subtly plan to slip away by withdrawing from their normal routines. A few key warning signs of suicide are:
- Losing interest in school, work, or hobbies
- Withdrawing from friends or social activities
- Giving away prized possessions
- Lacking appropriate personal appearance or hygiene
- Having trouble eating or sleeping
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Taking unnecessary risks
If you notice these signs in a friend, peer, or loved one, don’t wait to take action and look into concrete methods for depression help. Talk to their family or seek professional help by reaching out to a mental health service or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for mental health support on teenage therapy.
Suicide is a cause of death that is 100% preventable. By understanding the potential reasons of leading someone to attempt an act of suicide, and learning tangible ways to step in and help, we can work collectively to put an end to this heartrending issue. It’s possible to create a world we would all want to live in. By doing your part to empower the people in your life, lend a helping hand to form communities, and look for suicide warning signs, you can single-handedly make a positive difference in this growing crisis.
Resources and additional articles on mental health:
- National suicide hotline
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Psychology Today provider listing
- Trevor Project -Suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ adolescents.