A mother finds her 17 year old teenage son hanging from the rafters of their basement. To hear of this occurrence is not rare in society today. Every 90 minutes a teenager in this country commits suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. The National suicide rate has increased 78% between 1952 and 1992.
The rate for 15-19 year olds rose from two per 100,000 to 12.9, more than 600 percent. (Special report, Killing the Pain, Rae Coulli)
A 17 year old boy, Douglas Stewart, came home from school to find his mother lying on the sofa with a strained back. Being concerned for her he rubbed her back briefly then put on some easy listening music. Douglas then proceeded downstairs to his bedroom. Two of his friends came to the door.
His mother waited to see if he would return to answer it; minutes later she answered and then yelled for him to come up. When
he did not come, she went downstairs to get him. That is when she found him strangled and her sons body dangling from the ceiling. This is a senseless tragic sight for a mother to endure. The mortality rate from suicide in 1996 showed 9.5 per 100,000 for 15-19 year olds.
This also shows boys are four times more likely to commit suicide then girls. However, girls are twice as likely to attempt suicide. (American 1996) It is imperative to reverse this trend and in doing so we need to understand the characteristics, behaviors and events associated with youth suicide.
There are many risk factors associated with suicidal ideation and attempts. Risk factors include self-destructive behavior which may be related to life events, unfavourable home environments, or a genetic component. Personality traits like aggression and hostility or feeling introverted or hopeless play a role in suicides.
Loss of control, poor problem solving techniques, or rigid cognitive life styles are also characteristics of suicides. Similar traits are found in depressive behaviors. Teenagers may have been exposed to others who have had suicidal behaviors.
Douglas Stewart, the 17 year old boy had previously rehearsed his hanging. Medical people had been summoned to his house two months before because he had tried to hang himself with a dogs choke chain using the stairway banister. In the same area in Calgary between June and October of that year four teenage boys committed suicide.
Their deaths questioned the United Nations statement that Canada was the best place to
live yet is now rated third-highest in teenage suicide. Not a proud statistic. The overall
national suicide rate increased 78% between 1952-1992. Menno Boldt, a sociologist at
the University of Lethbridge, Alberta suggests that the right to die movement on behalf of the terminally ill patients may be sending the wrong message to teens. Are teenagers in their immature minds ready to hear this controversy and understand?
Are there warning signs or suicidal symptoms? Guidance councillors warn of verbal hints that teenagers say that should be taken seriously. Statements like I wont be a problem for you much longer, nothing matters, its no use, I wish I were dead, I cant take it anymore, nobody cares about me, I wish I were never born.
These are potential suicide risk statements indicating impending destructive behavior.
A suicide survey was taken in 1997 by an Oregon High School. In this a statement was made that no less than 35% of Oregon attempters made prior attempts. Just like Douglas Stewart. A previous suicide attempt is the best predictor of future suicidal behavior. Without intervention , a failed suicide attempt may be followed by one that results in death.
Douglas Stewart had previously attempted with a dog choke chain and after recovery his visits to the psychiatrist increased. He had previously been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and taking an anti-depressant. Douglas had a risk factor- a genetic component.
There are also warning signs for increased suicide risks. These factors include
changes in behavior such as being prone to accidents, drug and alcohol abuse, physical violence towards self or animals, decreased appetite, withdrawal from family and friends, running away, low grades in school, unkept appearances, notes with suicidal contents, taking risks, purchasing weapons. .