In the wake of several recent celebrity deaths, a renewed attention to mental illness and the tragedy of suicide has been brought to public focus. Although these high-profile deaths have involved middle-aged victims, the motivating illnesses impact people of all ages, especially a growing number of youths and teens.
According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of teen deaths after accidental deaths -- which include overdoses. The same study showed that teen suicides increased by 56 percent in 2016, bucking what had been a steady decline throughout the late 20th century. For instance, teen suicides dropped by 15 percent between 1999 and 2007, but have increased rapidly in the past decade.
In order to reverse this dangerous trend, parents, healthcare professionals and other experts are working to help identify and treat the mental health disorders that lead to suicide. According to Newport Academy, a nationwide teen rehabilitation center with locations in the New York region, noticing the following indicators can help save young lives:
- Bloodshot, drifting and non-focused eyes
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss, looking gaunt and skeletal
- Poor hygiene and diminished personal appearance
- Laughing for no reason, emotional instability and extreme moodiness
- Secretive, territorial behavior and hiding in their room
- Extended and unexplained use of bathrooms
- Loss of interest in once-favored activities and isolation
- Stealing, unexplained need for money and kleptomania
- Inappropriate clothing, such as long sleeves in summer to hide needle marks
- Avoiding eye contact, inability to communicate and withdrawing
In addition, there are ways to recognize whether someone is considering a suicide attempt. Warning signs include:
- Talking or posting on social media about suicide or wanting to die
- Feeling hopeless or trapped
- Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol
- Changes in weight, appearance or sleep habits
- Gathering drugs, sharp objects, firearms or other items that could be used to commit suicide or self-harm
- Isolating themselves and withdrawing from friends
- Searching online for methods of committing suicide
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye and giving away prized possessions
- Trouble concentrating and/or a drop in academic performance
- Migraines, frequent stomachaches or other physical complaints
- Risk-taking or self-destructive behavior
- Suddenly becoming calm or cheerful after a long period of depression
If any of these signs are apparent, take action and do not leave the person alone. In certain situations, patients should be taken to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
Those suffering from suicidal thoughts should immediately call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information on how to keep your teen safe, visit Newport Academy's website.