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Teen Suicide Attempts Rise, Is Your Kid at Risk?

Teen suicide attempts rise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released a report showing that teen suicide attempts are on the rise, increasing from 6.3% in 2009 to 7.8% in 2011. Such information may have many parents wondering whether their kid is at risk and what signs they should look for to help prevent such a tragedy.

Teens also thought about suicide more

This frightening news is part of the CDC's 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a report that provides information on risky behaviors in which youth and young adults take part. A total of 15,425 students responded to the survey.

The risky behaviors covered in the survey include the categories injury and violence (which encompasses suicide, texting behind the wheel, fighting, carrying a gun, and other dangerous activities), sexual behaviors, and alcohol and drug use. Suicide makes up 13% of all deaths among young people aged 10 to 24 and is the third leading cause of death among that population.

The report also noted that teens are thinking about suicide more than they used to. A total of 15.8 percent of surveyed teens said they had seriously considered attempting suicide, and this is up from 13.8 percent in 2009. Nearly 13 percent (12.8%) of teens said they had made a suicide plan, which is up from 10.9 percent in 2009.

Some other statistics about high school students that should make parents pause include:

  • 25.8% of high school students said they felt sad or hopeless
  • Females are much more likely to feel sad or hopeless (32.7%) than are males (19.3%)
  • Females are more likely to seriously consider suicide (17.6%) than are males (11.7%)
  • Females are more likely to make a suicide plan (13.8%) than are males (10.1%)

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Is your teen at risk of suicide?
Here are some signs parents and other concerned individuals should look for that may signal a teen is at risk of attempting suicide:

  • Stops spending time with friends or family and/or stops going out socially
  • Makes significant change in appearance, especially girls who may stop using make-up or worrying about what they wear
  • Talks about death, suicide, and/or going away
  • Gives away prized possessions
  • Engages in self-destructive behavior, such as drugs, drinking, cutting
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Has difficulty concentrating, remembering, or thinking clearly
  • Talks about feeling guilty, hopeless, or sad
  • Suddenly acts cheerful after being depressed for a long time. This may indicate the person has decided to attempt suicide

A few other factors parents should keep in mind:

  • Teens who talk about suicide and dying should be taken seriously. A rational plan of action should be made, with a mental health professional if at all possible. Teens may resist help, but they really want it.
  • Teens who attempt suicide and fail are at much higher risk to try it again.
  • Teens who attempt or commit suicide are not always sad or depressed. As parents are aware, teenagers are usually good at hiding how they really feel. Teens may harbor intense feelings about a parents' divorce, for example, or about being obese.
  • Many teens who attempt or commit suicide do so impulsively, triggered by an overwhelming event or circumstance that leads them to think suicide is the only way out. Such events could be an incidence of bullying or cyberbullying, getting arrested, or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Parents and other concerned individuals should not be afraid to ask teens if they have been thinking about suicide or harming themselves for fear that the mere act of asking will prompt the teen to contemplate suicide. This is a myth, and so parents should ask questions if they are concerned.

Teens who are thinking about suicide and parents, family members, and friends who are concerned about them can contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for immediate, confidential help.

The new statistics from the CDC are a wake-up call for parents, family members, and friends of young people who may be at risk of suicide. Knowing the warning signs can help answer the question, "Is your kid at risk of suicide?" and then do something about it.

CDC's 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey

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