Following our recent series on bullying, we felt there was a need to follow up with even more specific information on teen suicide. With continuing stories in the news about gay teens and teens who have been bullied ending their own lives, it becomes imperative that those of us involved in youth ministry educate ourselves about the causes of teen suicide and ways in which we might help.
This four part series will be authored by Heather Harlan of Phoenix Programs, Inc. Heather's credentials include CRPS, Certified Reciprocal Prevention Specialists, ACRA (Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach) Certified Substance Abuse Therapist/ Supervisor, and GAIN (Global Appraisal of Individual Needs) Certified Administrator/Trainer.
Part one of this series focuses on causes of suicide:
#1. Mental disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org) reminds us mental illnesses are brain disorders. Sometimes, the individual has been proficient at hiding his/her struggle from family and friends. Let’s be clear: LBGT issues are NOT mental disorders, but youth working to understand these issues in their lives may be at higher risk for those disorders most closely associated with suicide which include clinical depression and anxiety, bipolar and other mood disorders.
#2. Substance abuse. When mood altering chemicals such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are introduced to the underage brain with stressors present, youth may find the idea of a permanent solution for a temporary problem –suicide—to be a way out of unbearable emotional pain. These choices only further inhibit the brain from working toward positive solutions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (www.samhsa.gov) cites 75% of youth suicide attempts are drug-related.
Both these factors are better understood in light of our understanding of the immature physical nature of the human brain until about age 25 resulting in higher vulnerability to formation of mental disorders or substance use disorders (what we used to call addictions).
Coming in Part 2: Preventing Suicide