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THE SELF-HARM PANDEMIC: Common Risk Factors for Teens

Suicide is a serious public health concern, and unfortunately, teenagers are not immune to this issue. Recently I read a poll that said suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults aged 10-24 in the United States. As recent as 2019, the suicide rate among teenagers aged 15-19 was 11.9 per 100,000 people, was the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-14, and the third leading cause of death for people aged 15-24.

What is happening? Rates of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation are higher among teenagers than any other age group. I’ve spent far too many hours counseling families and teens impacted by suicide. Our teenagers are crying out for help. Are you listening?

The reasons for the rise in suicide rates among teens are complex and multifaceted. There are likely many contributing factors, including social, cultural, and environmental factors, as well as individual factors such as mental health and personal circumstances. Some possible factors that may contribute to the rise in suicide rates among teens include:

Mental health issues: Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can increase the risk of suicide among teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 50% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition.

Social & academic pressure: Teens that identify as LGBTQ+ are at a higher risk of suicide than their heterosexual peers. It has to be said that 7.1% identified as LGBTQ+ in 2022. That number more than doubled since a similar poll was conducted in 2012. If we continue to force our children to “find themselves” (sexually speaking) these numbers will increase. Our schools should not be a playground for adults to manipulate or brainwash kids. We need open and honest discusses.

Social media: Social media can create a lot of pressure on teens to present a perfect image of themselves online, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Cyberbullying can also be a contributing factor to suicide among teens.

Substance abuse: Substance abuse can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, which can increase the risk of suicide. Many teens are exposed to drugs and alcohol in their own home. Parents need to be cautious about what is in the home to tempt their children. If they are getting substances from from their peer group, parents need to limit interaction with those friends.

Traumatic experiences: Traumatic events, such as physical or sexual abuse, can increase the risk of suicide among teens. This escalates is the child is not given proper counseling or care. Encourage you teens to talk to someone. A parent. A grandparent. A counselor. A mental health coach. A teacher. A minister. Someone!

Family issues: Family issues such as parental divorce, domestic violence, and parental substance abuse can contribute to feelings of isolation and depression, which can increase the risk of suicide. This was discussed in a previous blog. Some of these issues are unavoidable but must be identified.

It's important to note that suicide is a complex issue. There is no single cause and there is no one-size-fits-all explanation. Each case is unique and requires a personalized approach to treatment and prevention. Risk factors must be considered. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it's important to seek help from a mental health professional or crisis hotline. One option is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Don’t give up. There is hope. Take your mental health seriously.

You are loved.

Dr. Ray Reynolds

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