What is suicide?
Ever had one of those horrible, rotten, terrible, no-good days? It happens to all of us at one time or another. Sometimes when life is hard, it can be tempting to give up. That's a normal feeling. But actively thinking about killing yourself—that is something very different.
Unfortunately, many young people try to kill themselves—and many succeed. Every year, more than 2,000 teenagers commit suicide. That makes suicide the third-leading cause of death among teenagers. What's worse is that the number of suicides among young people is going up.
You may know someone (or of someone) who has tried committing suicide, or even someone who has killed herself. You may have wondered: Why did she do it? What was she thinking that made her want to stop living forever? Why couldn't she see how lucky she was, and how much she had going for her?
These are difficult questions, and they don't have easy answers. But here's an important fact that you should know: Most people who try to kill themselves don't really want to die. That may be hard to believe, but it's true. They do want to live; they just don't want to feel pain anymore. back to top
What kind of pain is so terrible that it would make you want to commit suicide?
Most of the people who want to kill themselves are very sick with depression
. Depression is an illness, just like the chicken pox or the flu or asthma. It makes you feel sad or angry or blue every day for a couple of weeks or longer. A person who is depressed doesn't think like a typical person who is feeling good.
Sometimes, people who are very depressed remember only their bad times and their disappointments. Imagine how hard it would be to think about all of the things that have gone wrong at school and at home—and nothing else. Imagine if you couldn't remember any of the good times—if you suddenly forgot all your happy memories. That would be very hard. That's what it's like for some people who have serious depression.
But not all people who are suicidal are depressed. Sometimes they have other mood disorders
. That's something only a health professional will be able to tell. back to top
Are there any special problems that may put people in danger?
There are a few special problems that could make people who are troubled want to die.
Are there any special situations that may put people in danger?
- Teens who have anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are more in danger of killing themselves.
- Teens who have problems with drugs and alcohol are also more in danger of killing themselves. When you drink a lot or take drugs, you often do things that are more dangerous, like drink and drive.
- Some teens who want to kill themselves suffer from psychotic illness. People with this illness often hear voices inside their head that tell them to hurt themselves.
- Teens who have already tried to kill themselves once are much more likely to try it again. back to top
If one of your parents or another close relative has tried to commit suicide, you may be in more danger of doing the same thing. That could be for a couple of reasons. First, you will have all kinds of powerful feelings—like anger and guilt—when this happens, and it can be hard to deal with those feelings. Second, depression sometimes runs in families, meaning that you could have inherited certain problems that have to do with the chemicals in your brain. If you do have this problem, the suicide of someone you love could make those problems worse.
If someone you love has died, or if your parents have just gotten separated or divorced, you may feel rejected, worthless, or lonely. If you are already feeling depressed or troubled, an important loss could make you feel as if your life is falling apart. It's not falling apart, but you will need some extra support right now.
If your whole sense of self-worth is based on one thing (like being good at sports) and something goes wrong (like not making the team), at that moment, life may seem not worth living.
Teens who have been abused by their parents or by other people have learned that the world is a scary and unsafe place. It doesn't matter if it's physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. If they already feel like a victim, they may not think it's so bad to hurt themselves. But it would be a terrible thing.
If a teen keeps failing in school, she may suffer from poor self-esteem. She may start thinking, "I'm just too dumb," and stop trying altogether.
Sometimes people who feel that they don't fit in at school or who don't have a lot of friends may be more at risk for suicide. It's hard enough being a teenager, and it's much harder if you don't have good friends to support you through the tough times.
Parents fighting a lot with each other can make someone who is depressed become suicidal. That's because fighting is very stressful, and it usually means that people are not really solving their problems. They're just making them worse. It's hard to learn how to work through your own problems if your parents don't set a good example. You may think the only way out is death. That's not true, of course, but it can sure feel that way if there's a lot of yelling and screaming going on around you, or if nobody is talking at all.
Sometimes, people who know someone who has committed suicide may be more tempted to try it themselves. So right after you hear about the suicide of a classmate, a neighbor, a friend, or even a celebrity, it's good to pay close attention to your friends who may already be troubled. back to top
Do gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens try to kill themselves more often than heterosexuals?
Some studies have shown that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens are up to three times more likely to try suicide. This is not because they are gay, of course. It probably is because they have to worry about how the kids in school and our society treat people who are gay. Add that to the usual changes that any teenager goes through, and you have double trouble. So some gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens may try to hide who they are. That's not an easy thing to do if you're around people all day long. It can make you feel ashamed, confused, and like a social outcast. That can be very hard on your self-esteem, which makes it harder to battle things like depression.
If you are feeling suicidal right now, it's important that you get help right away. The iEmily hotlines page
lists the telephone numbers of some national suicide hotlines. If it feels too difficult for you to look those up right now, just call 911 and ask the operator for help. back to top