September means Back to School! There’s excitement in the air as families rush to the Target aisles to buy notebooks, pens, and materials for a promising year full of new experiences. As exciting as Back to School can be, kids can feel scared and overwhelmed. For many, it can feel too overwhelming. September also happens to be National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, an occasion to spotlight an issue that is growing among youths, and one that shows no signs of slowing down.
Youth suicide is a major cause of death during the crucial years when they should be building healthy interactions with their peers, constructing positive self-images, and forming important social bonds. According to 2015 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children aged 10-14.
Many suicides occur in isolation, while others are clustered in back-to-back succession around the same school or district. Many school authorities and administrations are baffled as to what is causing their students to kill themselves with alarming frequency. Could it be an increasingly rigorous academic schedule? Is it from bullying and social pressure to be attractive, cool, liked?
There are many reasons why this could be happening. Social pressure and lack of support can be contributors, as well as anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic disorders, and other psychological disorders which can impact suicidal intent. Kids struggling with anxiety disorders are more likely than mentally healthy people to have suicidal thoughts, make suicide attempts, or complete suicide. When it comes to depression, according to researchers, a specific occurrence of hopelessness in depressed people, rather than the depression as a whole, is a stronger indicator of suicidal feelings. That means that a depressed child will not necessarily be suicidal, but that a child feeling hopeless during their depression will be more likely to want to kill themselves.
That being said, it is important to remember that not every child who is suicidal has a mental disorder, and not every person with a mental disorder is suicidal. Many factors contribute to why a kid may feel that way, and it’s important to pay attention to warning signs when they do. Kids who want to harm themselves or die typically will leave a number of clues that indicate their suicidal ideation or intention.
In our next blog post covering suicide, we’ll explore the warning signs that parents and teachers can look out for, and how to help your child when you find them.
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to get connected with Crisis Text Line.