Sad Truths about Teen Suicide

Teen deaths for any reason are tragic losses of life and potential.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five teenagers in the U.S. seriously considers suicide annually, and approximately 1,700 die by suicide each year.  Both the CDC and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) point out that suicide rates for teens have tripled since 1960 -- making it the third leading cause of adolescent death and the second cause among college students.  Yet, according to the American Psychological Association, teen suicide is preventable, and they identify possible warning signs.  They also note that more than 90 percent of suicide deaths are from mental illness and substance-abuse disorders.

Not letting facts stand in their way, activist groups continue to claim, based on a flawed 1989 study that has been completely discredited, that 30 percent of all teens who attempt suicide are homosexuals.  Instead, teen suicide reports from the major psychological and pediatric associations either do not even mention sexual identity or mention it near the bottom of a long list of other risk factors associated with teen suicide.  Other teen suicide factors -- family breakup through divorce, alcohol or drug abuse, and family dysfunction -- are mentioned in all the major health organization publications as main factors in teen suicide.

Research from Columbia University Medical Center, published in APAM, cites different reasons for girls' and boys' suicides.  The researchers collected data from over 8,000 students in New York City high schools in 2005.  For females, recent dating violence is a primary cause of attempted suicide.  For teen males, a lifetime history of sexual assault is associated with suicide attempts.  Dr. Elyse Olshen, lead researcher for the study, reported that girls who have been physically abused by a boyfriend are 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than those who have not.  For boys, sexual abuse over an extended period of time is more likely to be the determining factor for male teen suicide.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) identified the strong risk factors for teen suicide as depression, alcohol, or drug abuse and aggressive, disruptive behaviors.  They also mentioned family loss, instability, and unplanned pregnancy.  Suicidal teens, they reported, feel alone, hopeless, and rejected and are especially vulnerable when they have experienced a loss, humiliation, or trauma, such as poor grades, breakup with boyfriend or girlfriend, argument with parents, parental discord, separation, or divorce.  The APA declared that 53 percent of young people who commit suicide are substance abusers.

NMHA identifies feelings of anger and resentment and the inability to see beyond a temporary situation as the main factors in teen suicide attempts.  KidsHealth quotes Dr. David Sheslow, a pediatric psychologist, who identifies drugs and alcohol as leading causes of suicide in teens.  Further, KidsHealth reports, "A teen with an adequate support network of friends, family, religious affiliations, peer groups or extracurricular activities may have an outlet to deal with his everyday frustrations.  A teen without an adequate support network may feel disconnected and isolated from his family and peer groups.  It's these teens who are at increased risk for suicide."  Other problems identified by KidsHealth are divorce, alcoholism of a family member, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, repeated failures at school, substance abuse, and self-destructive behavior.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry publishes a fact sheet about teen suicide.  Causes they list?  Stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, fears about growing up, divorce, formation of a new family with step-parents and step-siblings, and moving to a new community.  They clearly identify suicide feelings as a "mental disorder." 

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their publication about preventing teen suicide, identifies the "long term impact of child abuse" as the leading cause of attempted suicides among women.  They emphasize the greater pressures of modern life, competition for grades and college admissions, and increased violence in the media as contributing factors.  They also cite the lack of parental involvement because of divorce, parents' work schedules, and limited family life.  One study reported that 90 percent of suicidal teenagers believed that their families do not understand them. 

Viewing teen suicide through the distorted, single-vision lens of the homosexual activists puts large numbers of teens at risk.  Those who insist that the problem of teen suicide is primarily among teens who struggle over their sexual identity overlook the vast majority of potential teen suicide victims -- those who have other emotional or psychological issues, those who abuse drugs and other substances, and especially those who have suffered sexual violence and abuse.  The problems of emotionally and physically battered teens must be faced and their minds and bodies healed; otherwise, the rate of teen suicides will continue to rise.  

Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D. is executive director and senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute.

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