Teenage Suicide: 5 Leading Causes and Interesting Statistics

Causes of Teenage Suicide

Teenage suicide is a grave concern that demands our attention. According to this research, there is a significant variation in the number of teenage suicides by gender as girls have two times more suicide attempts than boys; however, the success rate of suicide for boys is four times that of girls [Cuesta, I., Montesó‐Curto, P., Metzler Sawin, E., Jiménez‐Herrera, M., Puig‐Llobet, M., Seabra, P., & Toussaint, L. (2021)]. The rate of suicide is much higher among adolescent males than females (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019). CDC notes in this article;

In 2020, males accounted for the majority of suicides, comprising approximately 79% (36,551 cases). The male suicide rate experienced a slight decline of 1.9% from 2019 to 2020, with notable changes including a 3.1% decrease among non-Hispanic White males and a 5.7% increase among Hispanic males. The highest suicide rate for males was observed in those aged ≥85 years, reaching 52.0 per 100,000. Noteworthy fluctuations in rates occurred, with a 5.0% increase in males aged 25–34 years and 5%–12% declines in those aged 45–54, 55–64, and 65–74 years.1

For females, the suicide rate decreased by 8.0% (from 6.0 to 5.5 per 100,000) from 2019 to 2020. The suicide rate among non-Hispanic White females declined by 9.9%, while it increased by 29.2% among non-Hispanic multiracial females. The highest suicide rate for females was observed in the 45–54 age group, reaching 8.5 per 100,000. Notable reductions in suicide rates of 8%–19% were observed among females aged 35–44, 45–54, and 55–64 years during this period.2

Defining Suicide and Suicidal Ideation

Suicide is a deliberate act of causing one’s own death, often preceded by thoughts of wanting to die, known as suicidal ideation. The seriousness of the teenage suicide issue is underscored by the fact that it ranks as the third leading cause of death in young people aged 15 to 24.

Understanding the Risk Factors of Teenage Suicide

Teens are not uniformly at risk, and various factors contribute to their vulnerability. We will explore the diverse elements such as mental health conditions, impulsive behaviors, family history, and exposure to violence that increase the likelihood of a teen contemplating suicide.

Recognizing Warning Signs for Teenage Suicide

To address the problem effectively, it is crucial to identify warning signs that may indicate a teen’s struggle with suicidal thoughts. Changes in behavior, withdrawal from activities, and expressions of boredom or desire to die are among the indicators explored in this section.

Diagnosing and Responding to Suicidal Thoughts

Understanding how teens are diagnosed with suicidal tendencies is pivotal. This section will delve into the importance of taking statements about suicide seriously and the necessary steps to ensure immediate evaluation and appropriate intervention.

Teenage Suicide Treatment and Prevention Strategies

Once diagnosed, a teen’s journey to stability involves various forms of treatment. From individual and family therapy to hospitalization when needed, we will discuss the strategies employed to address suicidal behavior. Additionally, preventive measures, including open communication, parental support, and awareness of warning signs, will be highlighted.

Empowering Teens and Communities Against Teenage Suicide

Empowerment plays a crucial role in preventing teen suicide. This section will outline how both parents and teens can contribute to creating a supportive environment, recognizing warning signs, and seeking help when needed.

As we explore this multifaceted issue, it is essential to approach it with sensitivity and a commitment to understanding the complexities surrounding teen suicide. Together, we can work towards a better understanding and effective prevention of this tragic phenomenon.

Here are the factors to contribute to high suicide among teens today:

1. Mental Health Disorders

Teen suicide is often linked to mental health disorders, with the following being prevalent:

  • Depression: A deep feeling of sadness that can engulf a teen’s thoughts and emotions.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Extreme mood swings, from high energy to low depression, increasing the risk of suicidal thoughts.
  • Substance Abuse Disorders: Involvement in harmful substance use, intensifying the vulnerability to suicide.

Research indicates that suicide-related outcomes are associated with a range of mental health problems (MHPs) in adolescence, but the importance of different internalizing and externalizing MHPs may vary across adolescence and for different suicide-related outcomes (passive ideation, serious ideation, and suicide attempt).3 This study also found that;

Suicidal thoughts and attempts in adolescents are closely linked to mental health problems (MHPs). Most adolescents experiencing suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide meet criteria for at least one MHP. Both internalizing issues, such as depression and anxiety, and externalizing problems, including ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder, are associated with suicidal thoughts or attempts. The strength of these associations tends to increase with the severity of the mental health problems, with a stronger connection observed for suicide attempts compared to ideation. Read the study here.

In another study by (Claudio A. Dávila-Cervantesa , Marisol Luna-Contrerasa), the authors state that “The highest prevalence of suicide attempt was observed in students with a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, and in those who were ever forced or pressured to have sexual contact. It was shown that there is a statistically significant relationship between all studied variables and suicide attempts.” https://doi.org/10.32641/rchped.v90i6.1012

2. Stressful Life Events

Certain life events can amplify the risk of teen suicide:

  • Bullying: Persistent mistreatment, whether physical or emotional, can push a teen towards contemplating suicide.
  • Relationship Problems: Turmoil in friendships or romantic relationships may contribute to heightened suicidal risk.
  • Academic Problems: Struggles in school, such as poor grades or bullying, can overwhelm a teen emotionally.
  • Family Violence: Exposure to violence within the family environment intensifies the risk of suicidal thoughts.

This study found that “Depression, substance use, and perceived social support accounted for a substantial part of the effect of stressful life events on suicidal ideation (57%) and attempts (43%). All mediating effects were statistically significant. Depression was a relatively stronger mediator for both suicidal outcomes. Significant relationships among stressful life events and suicidal outcomes persisted even after adjusting for the proposed mediators.”4

3. Impulsivity

Impulsive behavior and emotional struggles heighten the risk of acting on suicidal thoughts:

  • Impulsivity: Acting without thinking and struggling to manage emotions increase the likelihood of succumbing to suicidal impulses.
  • Difficulty Regulating Emotions: Teens finding it challenging to control their feelings are more prone to acting impulsively.

On page 613, this study found that “These results are similar to those found in other studies, where the presence of mental illnesses, low self-esteem, or behavioral problems increase the risk of suicide attempt. This may be due to those people with a mental illness having greater impulsivity or deterioration in decision-making, which could predispose them to suicidal and aggressive acts.5

Other studies have also found a connection between impulsivity and suicide attempts among adolescents, such as this study here.

4. Access to Means of Suicide

Certain factors make suicide more likely if accessible:

  • Firearms: Availability of firearms increases the risk, as they provide a quick and lethal means.
  • Medications: Access to medications, especially in large quantities, raises the risk significantly.

According to Kivisto, A. J., Kivisto, K. L., Gurnell, E., Phalen, P., & Ray, B. (2020), adolescent suicide attempts are frequently linked to impulsive decision-making, access to the most lethal method, firearms, may be a particularly volatile combination driving increased youth suicide.6

Each year 3,100 young people die by firearm suicide. According CDC, in 2021, the number of firearm suicides in the US was 26,328, equivalent to 7.9 per deaths per 100,000 population. In 2016–2018, suicide rates for persons aged 10–24 were highest in Alaska, while some of the lowest rates in the country were among states in the Northeast.7

5. Previous Suicide Attempt

Past attempts increase the risk of future suicidal behavior:

  • Increased Risk: Teens who have tried to end their own lives before are at a heightened risk for similar actions in the future.
  • Need for Vigilance: Previous attempts serve as a critical warning sign, demanding increased attention and support.

According to Cuesta, I., Montesó‐Curto, P., Metzler Sawin, E., Jiménez‐Herrera, M., Puig‐Llobet, M., Seabra, P., & Toussaint, L. (2021), the number of previous suicide attempts is significant determinants for eventual suicide, as are self-inflicted injuries.8 King et al. (2012) noted that previous suicide attempts are a risk factor for suicidal ideation in bullies.

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7108a5.htm ↩︎
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7108a5.htm ↩︎
  3. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-3823 ↩︎
  4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2020.05.006 ↩︎
  5. https://doi.org/10.32641/rchped.v90i6.1012 ↩︎
  6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2020.08.442 ↩︎
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr69/nvsr-69-11-508.pdf ↩︎
  8. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijn.12930 ↩︎

Frequently Asked Questions about Teenage Suicide

1. What are the main causes of teenage suicide?

  • Teenage suicide is often linked to mental health disorders, with depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse being prevalent factors. Research emphasizes the significant association between suicide and mental health problems in adolescents [Cuesta et al., 2021].

2. How can we prevent teenage suicide?

  • 1. Talk about suicide. It is important to talk openly and honestly with teens about suicide. This can help to reduce the stigma associated with suicide and make it easier for teens to seek help if they are struggling.
  • 2. Know the signs of suicide. There are many warning signs that may indicate that a teen is at risk for suicide. Some of these signs include:
    • Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
    • Giving away possessions
    • Saying goodbye to friends and family
    • Making changes to their appearance or behavior
    • Engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors
    • If you are concerned that a teen may be at risk for suicide, it is important to talk to them about it or get them help from a mental health professional.
  • 3. Promote help-seeking behavior. Let teens know that it is okay to ask for help if they are struggling. There are many resources available to help teens, including hotlines, websites, and mental health professionals.
  • 4. Reduce access to lethal means. This means keeping firearms, medications, and other dangerous objects out of reach of teens who may be at risk for suicide.
  • 5. Create a safe and supportive environment. This means creating a home environment where teens feel loved, accepted, and supported. It is also important to make sure that teens have access to positive role models and mentors.

3. What are the teenage suicide rates by year?

  • In 2020, approximately 79% of suicides were among males, with a slight decline in the male suicide rate. Females experienced an 8.0% decrease in the suicide rate. Notable changes included a decrease among non-Hispanic White males and an increase among Hispanic males [CDC, 2019]. Suicides in the U.S. reached all-time high in 2022, CDC data shows. About 49,449 people took their own lives in 2022.

4. Are there specific teenage suicide rates by state?

Teen suicide rate in United States organized by State. Source: https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/measures/teen_suicide/ID

RankStateSuicide Rate (per 100,000)
2New Jersey5.2
3New York5.4
8New Hampshire8.7
12North Carolina10.2
United States10.6
17West Virginia11.0
33South Carolina13.7
38North Dakota18.4
42New Mexico20.7
46South Dakota37.2

5. What are the social factors affecting teenage suicide rates?

  • Several social factors contribute to teenage suicide rates, including mental health conditions, impulsive behaviors, family history, exposure to violence, social isolation, access to lethal means, and cultural factors. These factors can make individuals more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and behaviors, highlighting the need for comprehensive suicide prevention strategies.

6. Why do some teenagers contemplate suicide?

  • Factors contributing to teenage suicide include mental health issues, stressful life events (bullying, relationship problems, academic struggles), impulsivity, access to means (firearms, medications), and a history of previous suicide attempts.

7. How can we help prevent teenage suicide?

  • Prevention involves recognizing warning signs, ensuring open communication, seeking professional help, and implementing support measures. Both parents and teens play crucial roles in creating a supportive environment.

8. What are the predictors of teenage suicide?

  • Predictors include mental health conditions, impulsivity, family history, and exposure to stressful life events. Recognizing these factors helps identify at-risk individuals and facilitates early intervention.

12. What are some common myths about the causes of teenage suicide?

Myth 1: Teenage suicide is always caused by a single, identifiable event.

Fact: Teenage suicide is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors, and it’s rarely triggered by a single event. While a specific event like a breakup or academic failure might seem like the immediate cause, it’s often the culmination of underlying issues and stressors.

Myth 2: If a teenager talks about suicide, they’re just seeking attention.

Fact: Taking a teenager’s suicidal thoughts or statements lightly can have devastating consequences. While it’s true that some teenagers may express suicidal thoughts to seek attention or reassurance, many are genuinely struggling and need help. It’s crucial to take these concerns seriously and seek professional support.

Myth 3: Only teenagers with a history of mental illness are at risk of suicide.

Fact: While mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are significant risk factors for suicide, they’re not the only ones. Teenagers may be vulnerable due to various factors, including impulsive behaviors, family history of suicide, exposure to violence, social isolation, and access to lethal means.

Myth 4: Suicide is inevitable once a teenager decides to do it.

Fact: Suicide is preventable, and intervention and support can make a significant difference. Even if a teenager has made a plan or attempted suicide, there’s still hope for recovery. Prompt intervention and ongoing support are crucial.

Myth 5: Talking about suicide will put the idea in a teenager’s head.

Fact: Open and honest conversations about suicide can help reduce stigma, encourage teenagers to seek help, and provide opportunities for intervention. Talking about suicide doesn’t increase the risk; it can actually help prevent it.

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Olivia Mercie. (2023, November 26). Teenage Suicide: 5 Leading Causes and Interesting Statistics. EssayHelper.me. Retrieved from https://essayhelper.me/blog/teenage-suicide-5-leading-causes-statistics/

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