Teenage depression and suicide are contributing factors to one of the most common preventable reasons why children are choosing to take their own lives. Teens kill themselves by the thousands every year, but suicide isn’t just something that happens out of the blue. There is always a contributing factor that helps to facilitate the ultimate decision. Most teens with depression are also dealing with alcohol abuse, drug use, and may be suffering from physical or sexual abuse as well.
Statistics on Teenage Depression and Suicide
1. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for the 12-18 age demographic. When the age demographic is expanded to 10-24, suicide becomes the second leading cause of death.
2. Studies show that at least 90% of teens who kill themselves have some type of mental health problem.
3. The number of teens who thought about killing themselves at the time of their worst or most recent episode of major depressive disorder: 1.8 million.
4. States in the US spend nearly $1 billion annually on medical costs associated with completed suicides and suicide attempts by youth up to 20 years of age.
5. 14%. That’s the percentage of teens who suffered at least one episode of depression within the last 12 months.
6. More teens die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.
7. The number of suicide attempts that are estimated to happen in the United States every day by teens: 5,400.
8. 4 of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs as to their intentions.
9. About 11% of adolescents have an ongoing depressive disorder by age 18.
10. Depressed teens with coexisting disorders such as substance abuse problems are less likely to respond to treatment for depression.
11. The issue that teens face with treatment for depression is that many anti-depressants also have a side effect that may contribute to an increased level of suicidal thoughts.
12. The top 3 methods used in suicides of young people include firearms [45%], suffocation [40%], and poisoning [8%].
13. Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 81% of the deaths were males and 19% were females.
14. Girls are more likely to report failed suicide attempts than boys.
15. Native American/Alaskan Native/First Nations youth have the highest rates of suicide-related fatalities.
16. Hispanic teens are more likely to report suicide attempts than any other racial or ethnic demographics.
17. 16% of high school students have reported that they have seriously contemplated committing suicide.
18. Teens who self-identify with the LGBTQI demographic are have suicide risks that are 4x higher than the general teen population.
19. Only 13% of teens actually create a plan for their suicide before they actually attempt one.
20. 157,000. That’s the number of teens who receive medical care every year because of self-inflicted injuries.
Increasing Risk and Symptoms
Another increasing form of depression that is occurring amongst teens today is the issue of their own sexual identity. The world got to see this with the January 2015 suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who felt rejected by her parents. She felt like they were trying to force her into conservative Christian values and would only take her to therapists that essentially told her that she needed to “get right” with God – or prescribe medication. She felt unloved, it spiraled into depression, and she eventually stepped in front of a speeding semi-truck.
When given enough time, many teens can pull themselves away from the edge and be able to right the ship. The only problem is that there generally isn’t enough time. Most teens do not spend a long time planning how they’re going to commit suicide. There is generally one minor event that becomes the catalyst for the decision to be made. A bad grade, a failure in sports, or the rejection of a parent can cause the flow of stress to flood the mind and overwhelm the teen.
This is why it is so important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression and/or suicidal thoughts in teens today. Teens who feel worthless, hopeless, or guilty are at a higher risk of committing suicide. Feeling sad, having changes in eating habits, or just getting upset easily can all increase a teen’s risk.
Suffering and Prevention
A complete suicide is an action that can only be taken once. Teens that are suffering from depression and choose to commit suicide are going all-in. We must as a community decide to go all-in and support them in the best ways that we can.
There’s always a lot of blame to be cast about after a suicide, as has been the case after Alcorn’s very public and successful suicide. It’s easy to blame a teen’s parents for failure. Maybe there are bullies, or disputes with friends, or a break-up with a long-term love interest. The very real fact that we have right here, right now, is that we are all to blame for teen suicides. We can do more. We can be better.
The stakes are too high. We cannot fail. That’s why knowing the statistics and then acting on this information is so important. Too many Leelah Alcorns are out there in the world today, struggling in silence. They need to know that we’ve got their backs.
It begins by recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression and then doing more than just encouraging teens to seek out help. We must go with them to get the help, provide supports for their parents, and be non-judgmental resources that everyone can use. Up to 80% of teens who are thinking about suicide right now won’t take any actions if they are given enough time to sort through their difficult feelings, emotions, and co-existing conditions.
We must be able to give them that time. If we do not, then there are going to be another 4,000+ teen suicides every year that will leave parents doing thing unthinkable: outliving their child.