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Teens and suicide

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Mollie woke up every morning and headed off to high school. As head cheerleader and girlfriend of the cutest guy in school, everybody wanted to live in her shoes. After getting a 4.0 on her report card, Mollie decided that life could not be better.

Then, after Mollie's boyfriend informed her he wanted to be "just friends," her sister Kristen went downstairs to Mollie's room to announce that she was wanted on the telephone. When Kristen opened the door, she found Mollie lying on the floor next to an empty bottle of pills.Although this story is fictional, such cases occur frequently. In fact, every day in America at least six teenagers kill themselves.

Teen suicide is nothing new. For as long as most teens can remember, they've been hearing all about it. Sometimes it seems as if it simply goes in one ear and out the other. Because suicide and suicide prevention have been discussed inside out, it now appears to be meaningless to many.

The fact is, however, that the suicide rate is dramatically increasing. Since 1982, there have been more than 200 suicides per year in Utah alone, and that number is also on the rise.

Aside from those who actually cause their own destruction, at least 276,000 kids between the ages of 14 and 17 attempt suicide annually in the United States.

According to statistics, girls are twice as likely to attempt suicide as boys, and males are four times likelier to succeed.

There are many signs that point toward suicide, and two-thirds of those who commit suicide offer warning signs prior to actually carrying it out. Behavioral changes are one of the biggest indications. Things like withdrawal from family and friends, sudden substance abuse, loss of interest in favorite activities and giving away valued possessions all fit into the category of behavioral changes.

Other symptoms include personality changes, such as boredom; difficulty concentrating and failure in school. Weight loss or gain and sudden depression also may lead to suicide.

"These people aren't just statistics. They are someone's best friend, someone's child and someone's brother or sister," commented LaurieAnn Noyce, a senior at Bingham High School.

The causes of suicide have been pinpointed by experts and psychologists around the world.

Stress is one of the leading causes. Many teens who fold under sudden stress such as failure in school, an ended relationship or the divorce of parents, are well-adjusted kids who simply did not want to deal with life anymore.

Depression also contributes to suicide. Emotional problems increase the risk of suicide, especially when they are mixed with drugs and/or alcohol abuse. Depression accounts for 60 percent of male suicides and 68 percent of female suicides.

When teens live in houses where they have easy access to a gun, they have a greater chance of committing suicide than those who do not. The reason is that teens often act on impulse, and after 15 minutes of trying to decide whether to commit suicide, their desire will usually fade away. So for those with access to a gun within a short period of time, suicide is more likely to take place.

Social status has been considered a cause of suicide, but statistics and studies show that upper-class kids kill themselves just as often as middle- or lower-class kids do.

"Money does not always mean happiness," said Lisa Hoskisson, a Jordan High School senior. "Kids in every social class experience the same emotions."

There are many different theories regarding suicide and suicide prevention. While teens and adults both have their own ideas about how to solve the problem, the goal is the same: To find an effective method to decrease the suicide rate.

One theory is the direct approach, but fear often gets in the way. Some feel that if they ask someone who wasn't even considering suicide if they've thought about it, it will plant an idea in their head and lead them to their grave.

It is a myth that asking people if they've contemplated suicide will lead them to it. It will not. "Those who are suicidal are sad and depressed, not stupid. They can think of suicide on their own," said Nancy Merrit, a teen specialist. "Those who worry about putting ideas in heads should realize that the idea may already be there, and if it's ignored, fatal results can occur. Most teens are honest about their intentions, but they are not asked often enough."

"A sense of hope and something to live for is what teens need. They also need a way to raise their self-esteem. When they look at this world and see it through a hopeless window, there is nothing that will make them want to stay in it," said Dan Snarr, a Skyline High science teacher.

Snarr also says that suicidal teens need to feel accepted. If they feel there is no place for them in this world or in society, they feel it would be better to simply end the pain and leave for good.

When there is a lack of acceptance, it is up to teens to step in and let their friends know that they are wanted and that suicide would devastate the people close to them.

Jennie Tobler, an English teacher at Skyline High School, offered her insight regarding the lack of hope seen in many of America's youths. "The teenage years are the hardest to live through. Some adults believe that teens need to look beyond right now and into the future to see what life is really about. Beyond the doors of high school is where those who are hopeless find their needed sense of hope. It is just a matter of hanging on."

Another way some think society could stop suicide is to let people know they are not alone and by trying to understand the pain they feel. Sometimes it takes only someone to listen and allow the depressed or suicide-bound teen to vent and share the burden.

"It is up to us as teens to take the problem and solve it. It is our generation that is responsible, and we need to accept the responsibility. It is our peers and our friends we are losing, and unless we do something about it, nobody else will," said Sheri Nievaard, age 18.

For teens to solve their own problems it would take those who care to actively participate in support groups and other help sources. If suicidal teens talk to people they can identify with, it may mean a lot more than listening to adults who grew up in a completely different environment.

For those who have nowhere to turn, there are already many support groups that offer help. Teens can access helplines through the Internet or through telephone hotlines. Many high schools also offer support to those who seek it.

If the direct approach proves true, a simple question such as "How can I help?" is all it takes. Once the problem has been identified, further help can be instituted.