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Dangerous rise in teen suicides

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Sadly statistics say in this country, a teen takes his, or her, own life every 100 minutes, and that is according to the national suicide prevention website Suicide.org.

In an article written by Laura Bauer and Mara Rose Williams at  courier-journal.com What experts are noticing is that after a decline in the 1990s, the number of youths who kill themselves began to rise about five years ago. Though no one can explain with certainty the reason for the increase, experts point to teens having more pressures at home and at school, financial worries for families and an increase of alcohol and drug use.

“This is a very dangerous time for our young people,” said Kathy Harms, a staff psychologist at Kansas City’s Crittenton Children’s Center, which provides psychiatric care for children and adolescents. “We’re seeing more anxiety and depression in children of all ages. … We see kids as young as 3 who come in.”

In a news release from Kansas State University in April 2008, Professor Jurich had this to say “Hopelessness and helplessness is the Molotov cocktail that triggers teen suicide.”  ” Teens think they are invincible,” Jurich said. “So when they feel psychological pain, they are more apt to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and the belief that they have no control over their lives.”  Professor Jurich knows how precarious life can be, especially for an adolescent. The professor of family studies and human services at K-State has written a book titled Family Therapy with Suicidal Adolescents and included inspiring stories like this one…

A young man came into his office, brought by terrified parents who heard the teen muttering about killing himself.

Suicidal adolescents often occupy the worn black leather couch where the young man slumped. Jurich has been a therapist specializing in youth suicide for 36 years. He has not lost one.

The forlorn young man was not to be consoled.

With gentle nudges honed from years of experience and research, Jurich drew out the young man’s story — girlfriend gone and life spiraling out of control. His only spark of interest came from cars and, well, why would he need a car with no girlfriend and no place to go.

“If your car was broken, what would you do?” Jurich asked.

“Fix it,” came the answer.

“What if the problem was the battery? Would you get a new battery or throw out the car?” the counselor asked.

“Oh, Dr. J., I wouldn’t throw out the car!” the young man answered, looking at Jurich as if he had suddenly sprouted a second head.

The professor paused. The young man stared. Suddenly, the teenager nodded. Of course. Why throw away your whole life if only part of it was broken.

Dr. Jurich believes family therapy produces the best results when working with suicidal adolescents, it is the “magic sword for taming the beast of suicide.”

It is clear that there is no one way or one person to listen to when it comes to preventing suicide. I was reading an article today written by Therese J. Borchard on PsychCentral she mirrored a lot of my personal beliefs in her story.

Depression is the leading cause of suicide. Usually when people have made the decision to die by suicide, they are either struggling with depression that isn’t being treated, or with treatment that isn’t help them.

I think this is especially true of young adults, who, for many of them, are often feeling some of these kinds of intense emotions for the first time in their lives. Older teens and young adults will be experiencing their first relationship breakup, one that few of them are emotionally experienced or prepared to handle.

Perhaps one of the future solutions for combating suicide by older teens and young adults is through a class targeted at helping them better understand relationships and their emotional reactions. Or heck, even just a class about emotions. We teach kids so many useful skills in school, but we do little to prepare them emotionally, or with realistic, usable relationship skills.

There really should be an Emotions 101 or Relationships 101 course taught in sophomore year of high school that covers these topics. While I’m not a big fan of institutional teaching of these kinds of things, it’s clear that many (most?) parents never talk to their teens (and likely cannot talk to their teens because the teens don’t want to talk about it) about these kinds of topics.

What ever you believe personally, the most important thing you can do right now is to understand that untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide and learn these warning signs.

Signs that someone may be at risk for committing suicide:
Talking or writing about dying, disappearing or types of self-harm.
Personality changes: withdrawal from family and friends, anxious or irritable, sad, indecisive or apathetic.
Inability to concentrate on school, work, routine tasks.
Change in sleep, including insomnia, oversleeping and nightmares.
Dressing down, unkempt and poor hygiene.
Change in eating habits.
Low self-esteem or overwhelming guilt, self-hatred or shame.
Loss of hope, believing things never will get better.
Giving away favorite things, extravagant spending, arranging care for pets.

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