Suicide doesn’t have a time or a date in which you can pencil in, often accompanied by mental illness that can arise at any moment. Suicide is defined as death caused by self-inflicted injury with the intention to die. While some may never know why their loved ones have chosen to end their own lives what is known about this increasing public health issue is that it is preventable; given the appropriate attention and treatment. However, the problem lies there.
Very few individuals actually know how to see the signs before it’s too late, even more, concerning is the level of discomfort with speaking on the topic. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10-24 and results in approximately 5000 lives each year. With it being the third leading cause of death in Philadelphia youth ages 15- 24 years.
Currently, LGTBQ youth are experiencing some of the most staggering numbers in attempted suicides. Youth that have experienced a high level of violence, are economically disadvantaged and have stunted problem- solving skills are at higher risk of committing suicide.
Critical to preventing teenage suicide is to start talking about it. Only by expanding the level of awareness and increasing knowledge surrounding the topic can the conversation be normalized and subsequently destigmatize the subject of mental health. Suicide, however, is coupled with consequences not limited to the fatality of the individual. Downstream their families and peers become at increased risk of depression; which could lead to a similar outcome.
Additionally, suicide cost the U.S around 70 billion dollars per year in medical cost.
Those who survive their suicide attempt may sustain life-long injuries that disable them from contributing to the workforce or leading normal lives. One way to start the conversation and make it relatable to youth has been a steady movement to bring awareness via social media and popular culture. ‘ I’ve been on the low. I been taking my time…I don’t want to be alive… I just want to die today…And let me tell you why.’ the rapper known as Logic sings in his call to action suicide prevention anthem ‘ 1-800-273-8255.’ At the crux of the anthem, in the background of the pre-chorus, the rapper says ‘ Who can relate.’ Existing studies suggest that youth who lack a feeling of connectedness are at risk of suicide. Later the song goes on to say ‘ I want you to be alive, I don’t want you to die today’ giving an outlet to those who don’t have a voice.
Publicly professing that it’s okay not to be okay and that there are others who may feel the same. Titling the song with the U.S National Suicide Prevention Hotline’s number was a really poignant move in encouraging and normalizing help-seeking behavior; especially among youth. Youth experiencing suicidal ideation often have noted that they feel a lack of adult understanding or support. So what can be done? It’s time to put an end to the stigma and encourage adults to learn about the signs to prevent teen suicide. Outlets should be created that allow teens to feel comfortable sharing how they are feeling. Some people think that bringing up the topic of suicide to their kids or young people within the community will increase suicidal behavior; however, they are misinformed.
In fact, having these conversations opens the door for young people to talk about potential threats (i.e., bullying and stress) both of which are frequently associated with the causative factors of suicide (i.e., depression and anxiety). These problems can be mitigated and are treatable; however, recognizing the warning signs are crucial to preventing the horrific potential outcome. Evidence has shown that peer norm groups are critical in suicide prevention by normalizing protective factors ( i.e., help-seeking, peer connectedness, and openly talking to trusted adults). Peer norm groups have proven to change behavior and increase positive coping skills among youth, increased referrals for distressed teens, and increase positive perception of adult support.
Don’t wait for September 10th ( National Suicide Prevention Day) or for another young person to take their own life to recognize this ever so pressing issue. Broaden awareness of the problem by speaking up, educating yourself as well as your community about the early signs of ideation, be more mindful of those around you and show compassion for the distressed youth in your schools, places of worship, etc. Take a stand to erase the stigma associated with suicide and mental illness. We all can all relate to a time of feeling isolated, so be open and share experiences with youth at risk letting them know they are not alone. Share your knowledge with others via social media, but also be about action. Create the space for people to converse, you might just give a voice to someone who needs someone to listen. You just might save a life.