How Common is Suicide in Adolescence?

Felicia Dye

Suicide in adolescence is perhaps a topic that should be discussed more seriously and more often. The problem is much more prevalent than many people realize. Each year millions of young people attempt to take their own lives. While there are far more attempts than there are successful suicides, the desire of young people to want to kill themselves still tends to be very alarming, and in some countries it is considered a major public health issue. Suicide in adolescence is among the top five causes of death for youth in many countries around the globe.

Suicide in adolescence is one of the top five causes of death in young people.
Suicide in adolescence is one of the top five causes of death in young people.

Anyone looking for firm numbers may want to consider contacting their national health authorities. It is difficult to determine the exact rate of suicide in adolescence without narrowing the focus to a specific location. In the United States alone, there are millions of adolescent suicide attempts every year, but only a few thousand are generally successful. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), however, several hundred thousand attempts result in the need for medical attention.

Adolescents may turn to suicide if they feel trapped in an abusive home.
Adolescents may turn to suicide if they feel trapped in an abusive home.

While the number of attempts that actually result in death may be relatively low, it is important to realize that when considering the causes of adolescent death overall, in the U.S. suicide is one of the leading causes. This alarming reality along with the problem of suicide in adolescence are, however, far from being issues that are limited to the U.S. In the past, countries as varied as Sri Lanka and Russia have been noted to have some of the highest rates of adolescent suicide.

Adolescence is typically an emotionally turbulent time.
Adolescence is typically an emotionally turbulent time.

Suicide in adolescence can be analyzed by sex. The National Adolescent Health Information Center (NAHIC) found, for example, that although females are more likely to make attempts, males commit suicide more often. This has been found to be true in most countries around the globe. Exceptions, in which females commit suicide at a higher rate, have been found in countries such as China and Cuba.

Ethnicity can also be considered when attempting to determine the suicide rates. In some countries, suicide in adolescence is much more prevalent among certain groups than it is among others. In the U.S., for example, it was found that American Indian/Alaskan Native adolescents are more likely to commit suicide than youth in other ethnic groups. Another finding that is important to consider when discussing the prevalence of suicide in adolescence is that many youth who kill themselves are those who have attempted to do so on another occasion.

Adolescents may turn to suicide if they are bullied at school.
Adolescents may turn to suicide if they are bullied at school.

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