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Becoming a teacher, entering into a wonderful profession, also deals with many difficult
issues. The problems faced by the adolescents of today has greatly changed, and even increased, from earlier times. Adolescent suicide is a dreadful, and ghastly problem that, as an educator, numerous will run into. It raises many questions: What are the statistics, and in what ways do children attempt to carry out a suicide? What are the reasons behind it? What are the warning signs to look for? Is there a difference between males and females? Does educating the children about suicide increase the rate? Are these children mentally ill or possibly depressed? What should be taken seriously? Is an attempt just seeking attention? What ways can a teacher, or a person close to them, help?
The statistics, that scare any rational human being, involve a number and percentage that is much too large, and it is the second leading cause of death for adolescents among the ages of 15 to 19. It is also the second for college students, with homicide being the third. It is the fourth leading cause for those 10 to 14 years old, and the rate has more than tripled since the 1950s. As of September 1999, the rate was 13.8 per 100,000 children that committed suicide. For 10 to 14 year olds, from 1980 to 1992, it increased 120%. Although, over the last decade, it has gone up a total of 200%.
Some of the ways these children either attempt or commit suicide depends on what is available. A myth that suicide is painless, glorifying it in the movies does not help, and it does not relate to the fact that many methods chosen are very painful. The reality is, pills, drugs, hangings, guns, or most of the many ways, involve agony and hurting. Having a firearm in the
house also contributes to the chance that they will use it. Out of the suicide victims, ages 10 to 24, there are 64% that use a gun to complete the act.
Just having a weapon in the house is not the cause of the suicide. The reasons behind the action vary greatly, but there are some life changes in an adolescents’ life that are very significant to them. It needs to be stressed that this emergency may not seem considerable to an adult looking at the situation, but is definitely meaningful to the child. It is not uncommon for young people to think about mortality, and even to wonder what effect their suicide would have on family and friends. These ideas, however, are not usually acted upon. The significant events in their life can be a crisis with their girlfriend or boyfriend all the way to a very negative remark or disposition from a parent or teacher. Anything in-between these, an important incident, can also trigger these thoughts or behavior. Students who have already had a lot of stress in their lives are going to be at a higher risk, also.
Stressors include divorce, parent arguments, family difficulty, rejection, abuse, (physical and/or sexual), violence, (i.e. rape or incest), feared pregnancy, and alcohol or drug misuse. A loss of a meaningful person, whether it is through death, divorce, a break up, or suicide, chronic depression or metal illness in parents or self, and pressure for perfection are all tension causing issues that may be the reason behind the suicide. Related to school, the main explanations are: being in trouble with school authorities or police from an incident in school, loss or disgruntlement in school, and strong demands from adults or teachers. The most important
motive, for a teacher to watch for, may be a change in school and/or address and not fitting in well.
Knowing all the reasons in the world will not help the individual if a teacher, adult, or peer does not recognize the warning signs. There are numerous indicators, and some also may suggest something else instead of suicide, but just looking for them will assist the student. Warning signs can include social withdrawal, a person who gives away personal possessions, a pupil who gives you a sealed envelope and asks for it not to be opened, depression or moodiness, and sudden changes in relationships. Examples of classroom behavior for educators to be aware of contain: a marked decline in school performance, death or suicide themes that appear in writing or artistic creations, loss of interest in school activities and previous enjoyable exertions, troublesome or rebellious behavior, poor concentration, skipping classes, sleepiness, and an incapability to accept compliments, praise, or rewards.
Attempted suicides do not usually happen unexpectedly. There are signals to look for. Withdrawing, not wanting to be touched, sudden weight change, running away, not normal risk taking, loss of sense of humor, sexual promiscuity, an inability to enjoy friends, self-mutilation, and extreme dependency on a particular person are all warning symptoms to look for. A direct statement, such as, “I wish I were dead”, or “I’m going to end it all”, are to be taken seriously for someone who is exhibiting other indicators. Also, indirect statements, “No one cares whether I live or die”, and “Does it hurt to die?”, are just as dangerous. Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or failure are all large reasons that a person may commit suicide, and should be watched for.
The warnings in children who attempt or act out suicides are not too different for males and females. Although there are some distinctions. The suicide rate for white males, ages 15 to 24, has tripled since 1950, but white females, same age group, has more than doubled. The rate for young black males, 15 to 24, has risen about 67%, in just the past 15 years. Adolescent males versus females, commit suicide at a startling ratio of 5 to 1. Females are more likely to have thought of suicide, 3 to 4 times more inclined to attempt it, and 1.5 to 2 times more likely to report a suicidal idea. Males are 4 to 5.5 times more prone to complete a suicide undertaking. Females only go through with a suicide one out of every 25 tries, and males are one in three.
Females complete suicides at a lower rate, but this does not mean their attempts should not be taken just as seriously. One of the best indicators of a suicide is a prior try. The children that attempt just once, are eight times more likely to do it again. One-third of kids who kill themselves have a previous trial time. Regardless of gender, all times should be taken soberly and gravely.
Educating, both males and females, on suicide does not increase the suicide rate of adolescents doing it. It is also a myth that talking about suicide or asking someone if they feel suicidal will encourage an attempt. It actually provides a communication base, and fears can be expressed. The first step in motivating someone to live is to talk about their feelings. This can be a simple question about whether or not the person is thinking about taking their life. It should, however, be carefully managed and delicately handled.
If issues are taught in a sensitive context, education of suicide does not lead to, or cause, further suicidal behavior. This can be compared to passing out condoms at schools does not make students go out and have sex. Peer assistance programs, to educate students how to help a friend get support, are crucial since three-fourths of teenage students would turn to a friend first. The programs help pupils recognize people at risk, and it also increases their knowledge of warning signs.
The warning signs for suicidal adolescents are many, but depression and mental illness can be a large contributing factor. There are recent studies that have shown more than 20% of adolescents in the United States suffer from a mental illness or have an emotional problem. One-third are attending physicians for treatment for depression. Although these numbers seem high, the ailment depression is generally under diagnosed, leading to difficulties in life, school, and common situations.
Depression is often missed because adolescence is a time of moodiness, drama, sensitivity, behavior experimentation, and rebellion. It is a challenge to identify a depressed kid from a child who may just be going through the normal ups and downs of growing up. That is why it is up to teachers, parents, peers, and community to provide information to a psychiatrist when a child is under his/her care, and they are trying to diagnose depression. Trust is an important element that must be established for an adolescent to share his/her feelings, and the previous people mentioned already have that trust, unlike the doctor.
It is a myth that kids that commit suicide are insane. They may experience depression, have a mood disorder, or be extremely unhappy, but majority are legally sane. Both depression and self-destructive behavior are common in adolescents. Self-destructive actions among this age group are on the rise. During the time the person actually commits suicide, there are 90% of the adolescents that have at least one diagnosable, active psychiatric illness, (usually depression, substance abuse, or a behavioral disorder). There is only 33% to 50% of suicide victims that have a mental illness at time of death, and only 15% were undergoing treatment when they take their life.
The previous attempt, and what should be taken seriously, is an significant and substantial action for people to watch for. Many more teenagers and adolescents attempt suicide than actually succeed, and the first try may be naive. A minor attempt, however, is often perceived as just attention seeking, and no more notice is paid to it. If the person does not receive any relief from his/her situation, they will probably be a repeater. It is also likely that the method used, and the level of danger will increase with each further attempt. The statistics on this are: 26% to 33% of adolescent suicide victims have made a previous suicide try. Majority also usually feels torn to end their pain through death, and wanting to continue living. If help can be found, and utilized, the rate of adolescent suicide will hopefully decrease.
What are ways to help an adolescent in need? This is the most important question we have to answer. If you can assist a person who is thinking about committing suicide, and deter this act, you have saved a life. Recognizing changes in behavior, knowledge of warning signs,
understanding risk factors, and intervening before the potentially destructive process completes itself are all parts of the aiding course. The duration and intensity of these factors are to be taken into consideration. Comparing one person to another will not work, you have to judge each case as special and individual. Stimulating conversation, helping them find appropriate counseling, asking if they are thinking about suicide, or if they have a plan, and then contributing to their development of a personal safety plan are ways to help.
This personal safety plan is crucial in protecting that life. It can include time spent with others, check-in points, plans for the future, and many other designs. They can help themselves. They can gain self-direction and self-management in their lives if they have caring and informative people around them. Adolescents in this situation do not always know the correct path to take to get there lives back under control.
Managing their lives takes effort on their part, but also for the people helping them. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”, and it is common for the person to resent help at first. Usually in the long run, though, it is a relief for them to have someone care about them that much. It is also necessary to limit these peoples exposure to firearms, alcohol, and illicit substances. Media can also be something that needs to be supervised. Professional help needs to be located immediately after an adolescents’ suicide plans are discovered.
There are three main forms of aiding those who want to end their life. A suicide crisis hot line, educational programs, and a screening are these formats. A suicidal person has two minds of whether they want to go through with it, and whether they want to live or die. It makes sense that if a person is having problems, a hot line that is inexpensive, anonymous, and convenient, would be a godsend. Education programs, mentioned earlier, can also be applied to parents, adults, and teachers. The systematic screening for disturbed students is a wonderful development. Studies show approximately 90% of teenagers who commit suicide have a psychiatric disorder. Finding these students is done by asking directly, and in confidence, whether they have thought about or attempted suicide. The questions are presented in such a way that the project staff can identify students with the most severe problems.
Adolescents having problems and that are suicidal is a large problem in society today. It is a issue that teachers may unfortunately encounter during their career. The problems adolescents face are so numerous, that sometimes they can not deal with them in the correct manner. There are statistics, reasons, warning signs, males versus females, education, depression and mental illnesses, attempts, and help available that all need to be looked at. Hopefully with education, teachers will be more prepared to deal with adolescent suicides.
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