Curbing the Rise of Teenage Suicide

Photo credit: Student Health 101

Suicide amongst teens has risen dramatically over the past few years and we must take action. The root causes are still being analyzed but while that is taking place the morally and socially responsible thing to do is to confront the issue while being informed.

As a family counselor may I offer some simple advice that may be helpful to someone you know who may be at risk?

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One of the chief causes of teen suicide is depression which has to do with experiencing losses. These can include a loss of friends, a job, health, finances or perhaps a home. Chief among these are loss of friends through bullying at school and losing the security of a home through parental divorce. The breakup of the traditional home where two parents are bonded to their children is certainly a contributing factor.

Here are some signs to look for if someone is thought to be depressed: Feeling sad and can’t seem to shake it; loss of appetite; no enjoyment in life; inability to sleep or wanting to sleep all the time; loss of interest in things that would normally be fun; no sense of humor; a negative outlook; crying spells; unusual irritability; and fogginess of thinking

There are different levels of depression: There is situational depression and is usually temporary, lasting a few days or weeks; Chronic or dysthymic- Relatively low grade sometimes lasting for years; and major or clinical which may require medical or psychological intervention.

 Is depression self-treatable at all? Yes, it is. The first step is to take control. It won’t pass as a cloudy day eventually will.

  • Change the way that you think: Thinking and believing produce feelings or emotions which in turn produce actions or behaviors. Simply put: negative thinking produces negative feelings which in turn result in negative behaviors,
  •  Eat healthy (lay off the sugar, especially soft drinks and foods that contain high fructose corn sugar)
  • Strike a balance between work and rest.
  • Practice healthy self- talk.
  • Hang out with positive people.
  • Place yourself in funny atmospheres. Watch comedy.
  • Take supplements: St. John’s Wort; Happy Camper; Zen Mind (theanine and GABA) B complex vitamins.

 How is depression generally medically treated? Through psychotropic medications (drugs), mainly antidepressants, chief of which are SSRIs (drugs which tend to serotonin levels) Most have side- affects, however.

My advice is to address the depression early.

  • Adopt Romans 12:2- Do not be confirmed to the ways of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may know what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. 
  • Phil 4:13- I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. (even to overcoming depression)

Anxiety is the precursor to depression. Proverbs 12:25: Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.\

Anxiety is a combination of fear and worry and fear is the antithesis of faith. The signs are similar to depression since it is the precursor.

The common diagnosis today is: “Anxiety and depression are caused by a chemical imbalance”. 

True, however, what caused the imbalance? Negative emotions are caused by negative thinking  which if left unchecked will cause a chemical imbalance. Simply put, the negative thinking causes the negative emotions of anger, bitterness, jealousy, worry and fear, which in turn will cause depression.

Depressed teen girl sitting on stairs and smoking. Casually dressed with t-shirt and jeans. Dark toning.

The physical manifestations of anxiety are phobias, paranoia, irregular heartbeat, digestive problems, migraines; high blood pressure.

 Self- treatment or medical treatment? Self -treat first. Take control. Anxiety is preventable. Medical intervention should be the extreme not the norm.

 My advice: Turn to God and His word first:

Psalm 94:19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Philippians 4:6-8 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Read psalm 119

Panic Attacks

  • Related to anxiety- Exaggerated anxiety, often masked and suppressed.
  • Chemical or pure mental? Mental which causes the chemical.
  • Triggers- Nearly always stress related. However, the stress usually exacerbates a preexisting condition. Fear is a stressor.
  • Self- treat or professional help? Seek prevention first, then self- treat by taking control first, if unable, seek professional help.

Again, live by Philippians 4:6-8

 Addictions contribute to suicides

  • Are addictions mental, spiritual or chemical? All three!
  • Signs of addiction- Controlled by the substance or a compulsive behavior; you have to have it.
  • Types of common addictions- Most common societally permissible ones are caffeine and sugar. 
  • Taboo: Heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamines, prescription meds: Oxycodone, Xanex etc. are KILLERS.
  • How bad can addictions get? Controlling, debilitating, and fatal.
  • How to break them: By the power of God. 12 Steps: I am powerless and am ready to turn my life over to God. You cannot do it alone; be reportable and accountable to another human being or group.

A word to parents: Please be there for your teens. Spend quality time with them, let them know that you are approachable and are willing to lend them your ear. And, check their social media; you may be shocked at what may be going on in your teen’s life.

Never ever give up! There is help for you. Remember that suicide is a permanent and selfish answer for a temporary problem. This too shall pass with help and time. God is on your side my friend.

                                                                                                                                          Dr. Al Huba

Author, Psychologist/Counselor, Pastor

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