Suicide and the Youth Suicide and the Youth A suicide attempt is a non-fatal act in which an individual deliberately causes self- injury and should be recognized as a method of communication from a youth who may be experiencing severe problems. Canadian statistics from the Suicide Information and Education Center in 1996 recorded 25 000 attempted suicides and 250 successful suicides. 1 in every 100 people who try to commit suicide will die. Based on the 1996 statistics one can assume that these numbers have increased. It has been suggested that suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst the youth and is more common amongst females than males. Although more females attempt to commit suicide males are more successful in doing so.

More often than not we hear of younger people committing suicide rather than those of the elderly. From reading several studies it is hard to say whether it is the youth or the general population that are more likely to attempt suicide and be successful at it. One may often wonder why a person commits suicide and what lead them to the point where they felt there was "no way out". It has been suggested youth who are suicidal feel alone, not understood by parents and or their peers, that they are unable to cope with failure, criticism and feel that things will never get better or that no one can do anything to help him or her, amongst other things. Based on these feelings experienced by youths they seek suicide as the "way out".

One reason suggested is that teens commit suicide as a punishment to themselves and to others around them. Suicide is also seen as a method of revenge. Some of the risk factors associated with suicide are abuse (physical, emotional, drug and sexual), as well as family history and change. Youth are affected deeply by change especially with issues involving family and friends. It has been suggested that the greater number of female attempts at suicide is based on relationship breakups. It is assumed that most often females experience a level of attachment that is much greater than that of males.

A female may feel as if no one understands her and that the only important person in her life has now left. Along with the risk factors there are warning signs. I will list a few but the slightest comment could mean that the person feels suicidal. Some of the more common warning signs are loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, death as a new interest sometimes displayed through art, music and writing as well as an increase in deviant behaviors. Even if these are not the signs and one encounters a situation where a youth says "I can't do anything right" one must take into account the negativity that the youth is expressing. Often after a person attempts suicide or is successful in the act those who are left behind have many feelings.

A person may feel anger, shock, shame and more commonly they feel guilty. Often after an attempt parents try to punish the youth or blame them. However, this only creates more problems not only for the family but also for the child, pre-teen and teenager who already feels stressed out or disturbed. Persons who encounter a suicidal youth must not preach, joke around, criticize and must never ignore any suicidal sign. From the Suicide Information and Education Center information there are four steps that must be taken after an attempt.

First seek medical attention immediately, second seek community resources, third open or keep lines of communication between yourself and the youth and lastly be available for that youth because they will need you. Going through this process of healing the youth may feel a sense of guilt, anger, anxiety and most likely the youth will feel depressed. If the youth still appears to be at risk one must "ASK, LISTEN and ACT". One of the most important items outlined from the information in the Suicide Information and Education Center is that one must "involve others [and] don't try to handle the crisis alone". Writing about this topic is very personal to me and I might stray from the exact assignment but I feel that this is the best way to express the idea of youth and suicide. When I was 16 years old I had just broken up with my boyfriend and felt like I was all alone and I had lost the most important thing in my life.

At first I just stayed in bed and would not go out with my friends. Until one day when I had finally reached a level like no other I had ever experienced. I was so depressed that I tried to hurt myself. I cut my left wrist. I just wanted to die. After I was unsuccessful with this I turned to not eating.

I became anorexic and lost about 25-30 pounds in two weeks. I didn't want to admit that I was sick but I was. I realized this finally one day in my chemistry class when I fell over and my friends had to pick me up. I mentioned earlier that there are signs and risk factors involved but it is not always easy to pick up on them. I would tell my mom I ate but I would throw out my food or else I would get in a fight with my mom and throw it at her or all over the floor depending on the strength that I had that day. It is very easy for a youth to hide an attempt.

My mom took me to the doctors that very day that I fell in class and he told me that I was very lucky that I was the way I was. I was to the point where you could see my ribs poke out under my skin and my clothes looked like they were 10 times too big. They put me on medication and had me talk to the doctor until I felt stable enough. I eventually got my appetite back and realized that I had done something very silly not only once but also, twice.

Now I look back (lucky enough) and realize that it was not worth all that I went through. I have a family that cares, and friends that support any of my decisions. I look back and think that if I would have been successful at my attempts I would have missed out at many important things in my life. I would have missed my 18th birthday, I would never know what it feels like to get married or have children. Speaking from experience I think that the best way to help youth is to offer programs that can help them. The Support Network here in Edmonton offers confidential 24 hour service to help youth who are experiencing problems.

I also think that suicide prevention and education should be taught in schools. I feel this way because this may affect a person's life in some way or another whether they are the people who attempt or they are someone who has lost a loved one because of suicide. I personally believe that suicide awareness is much more important than learning how to solve for a polynomial or simplifying an equation. Suicide, whether an attempt or a completion is not something that should taken lightly. It is a life changing experience and never goes away. Suicide will affect all lives and needs to be dealt with.

Suicide can be prevented, as long as everyone understands and helps those who appear to need it. Even for those who don't appear to need it!


Suicide Information and Education Center (SEC), 1996 Information on pamphlets and handouts from The Support N.