Depression primary cause for teen suicide, sometimes hard to recognize

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States in 2015.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

Experts say depression is a primary cause for teen suicide. At times, depression is not immediately recognized because teens display mood changes that are usually attributed to their age.

However, if the depression doesn’t improve, it is likely the teen is at a higher risk for suicide.

Signs of depression may include unhappiness, gradual withdrawal into helplessness and apathy, a drop in school performance, loss of interest in activities and more.

Teens who are depressed may begin to abuse drugs and alcohol to help them feel better, which could contribute to suicide. While under the influence of a substance they may act impulsively without thought of consequences and attempt to harm themselves to relieve depression.

Other factors that may contribute to suicide include a family history of depression or substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse, poor relationships with parents or peers, bullying, cyberbullying, or a recent traumatic event.

There is no specific type of individual who may be more likely to commit suicide. An individual who, to everyone else, appears to be outgoing, happy, and successful, may in fact be harboring feelings of depression without letting anyone know.

A child who is a high achiever in school may place so much pressure on themselves that they have difficulty coping with their own expectations.

The following are some warning signs to be aware of: depression, dramatic change in personality, behavior, or appearance, change in eating or sleeping habits, drop in school performance or involvement, loss of interest in activities that normally give pleasure, social withdrawal; giving away prized possessions; writ ing about death or suicide.

Parents should also be aware that more recently an online suicide challenge, referred to as Blue Whale, has emerged in the U.S. This game, which is suspected to be linked to suicide deaths in parts of central Asia, Europe, and South America, takes place over a 50 day period, during which an administrator of the game assigns daily tasks to be completed by the player, often involving dangerous activities. The game ultimately ends with the player being instructed to commit suicide on the 50th day.

So what can we do to prevent it or help the individual? The most important thing is to listen. No talk of suicide should be taken lightly. If you have suspicions that your child or someone you know may be suicidal, ask them directly.

Never agree to keep the discussion a secret. Seek professional help. Other prevention efforts should include effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders, family and community support and promoting skills in problem solving, conflict resolution and nonviolent handling of disputes.

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, take them to the nearest emergency room. We all have a responsibility to prevent suicide.

Editor’s note: Linda Richards is a licensed clinical social worker at General Leonard Wood Army Comm unity Hospital’s Child and Family Behavioral Health Services. n