The sad and desperate story of a college student who killed himself after a roommate secretly videotaped him having sex, and streamed it live on the web has made headlines across the world.
18 year old, Tyler Clementi, was embarrassed and humiliated by the invasion of his privacy. He jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.
Unfortunately, Tyler is not the only teen who thinks suicide is the only way to end his suffering.
On September 6, 2007, the Centers for Disease and Prevention reported suicide rates in American adolescents (especially girls, 10 to 24 years old) increased 8%, the largest increase in 15 years.
Amazingly, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds.
The current headlines demonstrate that it is more important than ever that parents are aware of the symptoms of depression and substance abuse. Suicides increase substantially when the two are combined.
What symptoms should I look for?
- Change in eating and sleeping habits
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities.
- Violent, rebellious behavior, or running away
- Drug and alcohol use.
- Unusual neglect of personal appearance
- Marked personality change
- Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork
- Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
- Not tolerating praise or rewards.
A teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also:
- Complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside.
- Give verbal hints with statements such as: “I won’t be a problem for you much longer,” “ Nothing matters,” “It’s no use, and I won’t see you again.”
- Put his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important belongings, etc.
- Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
- Have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts.)
What should you do if you notice these symptoms in your child?
If a child or adolescent says, “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take the statement seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. However, asking the child or adolescent whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than putting thoughts in the child’s head, such a question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems.
If one or more of these signs occurs, parents need to talk to their child about their concerns and seek professional help from a physician or a qualified mental health professional. With support from family and appropriate treatment, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a healthier mental outlook.