A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in Pediatrics, finds that suicide rates in children under 19 years of age increased between 2003 and 2004. Suicide was the only statistically significant increase in child death over this time. Overall, the suicide rate increased by 18.2 percent from 2003 to 2004, an increase largely driven by older teens.
"A teen's statement of a wish to kill him/herself must be taken seriously," said Lori Evans, Ph.D., Director of Psychology Training and the Project Coordinator of TASA (Treatment of Adolescent Suicide Attempters) at NYU Child Study Center. "Before they actually commit or attempt suicide, teens often make direct statements about their intention to end their lives, or less direct statements about how they might as well be dead or that their friends and family would be better off without them."
"Discussing the problem does not encourage the teenager to go through with the plan," emphasizes Dr. Evans. "On the contrary, it will help him or her know that someone is willing to be a friend. It may save your adolescent's life."
Watch for symptoms of depression lasting longer than two weeks, which may include:
—A change in eating and sleeping habits
—A marked personality change, exhibiting angry actions or rebellious behavior or withdrawal from friends and regular activities
—Involvement in drugs or alcohol or other risky behaviors, such as reckless driving
—An overreaction to a recent humiliating experience
—Difficulty concentrating and a decline in the quality of school work
—Persistent boredom and/or lethargy
—Unusual neglect of appearance
—Complaints about physical symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue
—A pattern of giving away or throwing away possessions
—Intolerance of praise or rewards
—Preoccupation with death in writing songs or poems
—An increase in comments, such as, "I can't take it anymore," or "Nobody cares; I wish I were dead."
How to help
—Take the person's comments regarding self-hate, suicide, or death very seriously
—Don't try to convince the person not to feel bad. Don't tell them to "snap out of it" or say, "Don't feel bad"
—Keep in close contact with the person and their parent, teacher, or a good friend
—Ask the child or teen what you could do that would be helpful to them
—Don't promise to keep any information a secret
—If symptoms persist or are dangerous and interfere with daily functioning, consult a mental health professional immediately