Youth Suicide-Why Are Kids Killing Themselves and How Can We Help Them?

Youth Suicide

Scared, anxious, overwhelmed, alone, stupid-these are just some of the emotions our kids feel every day.  Youth suicide is an epidemic in this country.  Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth 10-18 years old.  To put that into perspective, more kids die from suicide than from Cancer, Heart Disease, AIDS, birth defects, pneumonia, and influenza COMBINED.  We, as a nation, need to figure out why kids are killing themselves and how we can help them.

 

youth suicide

 

The Disturbing Statistics

(Data is based on CDC Statistics) In 2014, 2,262 kids, age 9-19, successfully committed suicide.  428 of those kids were 9-14 (middle school age.)  What’s even more shocking is in that same year, there were 120,990 incidents of self harm in kids age 9-19.  36,857 of those incidents involved 9-14 year olds.  These statistics are shocking and heartbreaking at the same time.  Something has to be done….

 

Why Are Kids Killing Themselves?

There are many reasons why a child would end their own lives.  Some of the reasons may be:

  • underlying psychiatric condition (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
  • drug or alcohol abuse
  • feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness (a burden on their family)
  • sexual orientation (feeling like people won’t accept them for who they are)
  • family issues
  • physical or sexual abuse

Youth Suicide

Is Bullying a Direct Cause of Suicide in Children?

 

According to the CDC publication on the relationship between bullying and suicide, suicide related behavior (suicide, attempting suicide, or suicidal ideation) is rarely the result of a single trauma or stress.  Youth who are at risk are dealing with compound issues such as school, parents, mental health issues, etc.

The CDC stresses the importance of understanding the difference between circumstances being related to an event versus being the direct cause or effect of the event.

 

The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide

 

The CDC knows that bullying behavior and suicidal related behavior are closely related, however, there are positives and negatives of the showing the relationship between bullying and youth suicide.

Positives

  1. Shows the harm bullying does to ALL children involved (the bully, the bullied, and witnesses.
  2. Shows the risk for the most vulnerable children (such as kids with disabilities, with learning disabilities, and LGBYQ youth.)
  3. Spotlights the problem of bullying and suicide and promotes an open conversation about prevention.

 

On the other hand, stating that bullying is the single direct reason for youth suicide can be harmful.

Negatives

  1. Kids will start to think that suicide is the normal response to being bullied.
  2. It could encourage copycat behavior.
  3. Focus on blame and punishment instead of putting the attention on prevention and support for the bullied and the bullies.
  4. Takes attention away from the other risk factors such as mental illness, substance abuse, family dysfunction, problems coping, etc.

Bottom Line

Being involved in bullying in any capacity (the bully, the bullied, or someone who is the bullied AND the bully) is just ONE of the risk factors that increase the risk of youth suicide.

 

How Can We Help?

 

There are several different ways to help.  They include a multi-dimensional approach, including parents, teachers, peers, school systems, and learning coping skills.

As per youth.gov, “No one person (parent, teacher, counselor, administrator, mentor, etc.) can implement suicide prevention efforts on their own.  The participation, support, and active involvement of families, schools, and communities are essential.  Youth focused suicide prevention strategies are available.  promotion and prevention services are also available to address mental health issues.  Schools, where youth spend the majority of their time, are a natural setting to support mental health.

 

 

School: Teachers & Students (Peers)

 

There are a number of small and large steps schools could take to start preventative actions.

Smaller steps would include teachers greeting their students by name and engaging them in talk about extracurricular activities they enjoy.

A sense of connection with a caring adult at school can provide support to kids who are having issues socially and emotionally.

 

School Based Programs

 

School based programs such as U OK? Friends Ask! Suicide Prevention Program are peer based programs.  Students take the lead, with a teacher, administrator, or parent who volunteers, in implementing a campaign against suicide for their school.  The National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide (NCPYS) helps school communities with resources to recognize warning signs, help friends in need, and know where to go for help.

There is no cost for the program but they do ask that you run a fundraiser where the program gets half the proceeds.

This is just an example of one program that could be implemented at schools to prevent youth suicide.  There are multiple strategies, manuals, tool kits, fact sheets, etc. that can be searched for in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

 

Parents

 

I know most parents teach their kids to be kind and accepting but lets talk about it a little.

Talk to your children about kindness and compassion.  Let them know that if they have a problem, they can come to you, without fear of you flipping out and calling the other kid’s mother.  Instill in them the philosophy, you never know what someone else is going through.  That child may be suffering from a learning disability and that’s why he can’t read as fast as you.  Or maybe that girl’s father lost his job, so she doesn’t have nice clothes to wear to school.  Maybe that kid’s parents just got divorced and he’s feeling scared, and alone, and lost.  That one snide remark could put one of these kids over the edge.

Tell your children: Don’t be afraid to be the change…..Invite the new kid to sit at your lunch table; offer to tutor that boy in reading; tell that little girl that you like her outfit (even if it is 2 sizes too big.)

On The Other Hand

Help your child learn coping skills.  If, hopefully it never happens, but if you become the butt of someone’s joke at school, shake it off.  Remind them daily, the only opinion that matters, is the opinion they have of themselves.  They create their own destiny.  We can change our emotions, that kid making fun of you is the one with the problem.  Maybe they have trouble learning, so they lash out at the first person they see.  It could be that they are going through something at home, and they don’t know how to express their emotions, and have no one to talk to about it, so they act like they hate everyone.  Teach your child not to worry about what other kids say about them.  Tell them they are beautiful and special just the way they are.

 

 

Meditation for Kids
Try teaching your kids a couple simple meditation skills.

 

Meditation for Kids

Meditation is a great tool to use to bring the mind back into focus, calm emotions, and ease tension.  Teaching kids some quick and simple meditation practice could help with the daily anxiety the school day brings.  Here are easy meditations to teach your child.

These were actually taken from Gabby Bernsteins's The Busy GIrls Guide To Meditation.  I’m going to put an adolescent twist on them (I hope she doesn’t mind.)

 

The One Minute Breathing Exercise

Have your child breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and then release for 5 seconds,  Complete this exercise 4 times (for a total of 1 minute-hence the name)  Have them picture the perfect school day filled with happiness, not too much work, and acceptance.

I’ve learned that it’s all about mindset.  If you go into a situation thinking you’re going to fail, you’re probably going to fail.  Go into a situation with the best possible outcome in your mind.  Getting an A on a test, sitting with a great bunch of kids at lunch, having a nice walk home, etc. and it will probably go down that way.

 

Peace Begins With You

(This is my favorite, I taught it to my girls who are 8, 9, 11, and they love it and use it all the time)

Kids can do this exercise anywhere and parents can do when their kids are getting on their nerves LOL.  I like to have my daughters do it while they’re studying. Then when it’s time to take the test, they can do it and it helps them remember what they studied!!  It can ease anxiety, bring your mind back to focus, and it’s fun to think up different mantras so….

1st gently press your thumb against your index finger, then against your middle finger, then your ring finger, and last press your thumb against your pinkie.

When you touch your index finger, say: PEACE

As you touch your middle finger, say:  BEGINS

When you touch your ring finger, say:  WITH

And as you touch your pinkie, say:  ME

**Tip-you can say any 4 words you want.  My girls and I say   I    AM    PURE    LOVE     Your family can make up any 4 word mantra.

 

Walking Meditation

Even as you’re walking you can be mindful and practice meditation.  We all know walking the halls of middle or high school was hard sometimes.  You feel self-conscious, anxious, and sometimes even downright scared.  Teach your kids these steps to ease their minds as they walk.

Take a deep breathe with each step.  Focus on your feet hitting the ground with each step.  Think of yourself as more grounded and safe with every step.  Imagine their is a beautiful shiny bubble around you-that no bad vibes can penetrate-only pure love and confidence can get in.

Finally, use a your mantra from the Peace Begin With You exercise.  Say it in your head as you walk tall and proud.

 

Take a Tech Break

Gabby says, “One of the main reasons ware so stressed these days is because of technology.”  With kid these days, the internet is all they’ve ever known.  Between violent video games, cyber bullying, and being able to google anything, kids are constantly surrounded by some device.  They don’t go outside to play, they bring their phones to the dinner table, my daughters literally FaceTime each other while they’re in the same house.  It’s bananas but here’s what you can do

Tell your kids to take a 5 minute technology break (they will protest, believe me) but explain to them that all their electronic devices could be adding to their stress.  Then take a walk with them and, most of all, leave your phone at home too!!  If that’s not an option just have them sit on their beds in silence.  It sounds crazy but it will be good for their mind to be still, to just BE.  Also, have them close their eyes and take a couple deep breaths.  While 5 minutes might seem like an eternity, it will help them get more centered.

 

In Conclusion

There is a plethora of reasons why a child would kill themselves.  The experts do not believe bullying is the direct cause of youth suicides.  They do, however, believe that it is ONE of the many risk factors to look for.  I uncovered many ways to implement a suicide prevention program in my community, as a result I fully intend to follow up and ask if I can start a program, right here in my hometown.

Just talking about the subject of youth suicide makes people cringe and uncomfortable but we have to step up. Start early (even elementary school kids should be evaluated and taught proper preventive skill.)   Show your kids some of those simple meditations, hopefully, they will like one and use it.

Teach faith and hope.  Remind them…….

 

The most amazing things in life usually happen right at the moment you’re about to give up hope

 

The most amazing things in life usually happen right at the moment you're about to give up hope Click To Tweet

Please share this article with anyone who you think might need help.  My goal is to get as many people as I can, to actively help in preventing youth suicide.  When I lost my sister to suicide in 2015, although she was 35, it has sparked something inside of me.  No family should go through what we went through.  With a lot of effort, I will try to help these kids, one school at a time.

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43 thoughts on “Youth Suicide-Why Are Kids Killing Themselves and How Can We Help Them?”

  1. Beautifully written… Hoping it helps others cope, to choose life, and to understand sel-love… Show them all the beauty they possess inside….

    1. Thank you so much Kristen. Schools need to start being more proactive when it comes to kids committing suicide. It seems like schools spring to action after a tragedy, bringing in grief counselors and talking to kids. If having preventative measures in place, helps even one kid, then that would mean success to me.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this and taking the time to inform others who have a hard time understanding. I struggled with self-harm and thoughts of suicide for over 7 years – through high-school into college. Praise be to God I have overcome those thoughts. This topic is near to my heart. You’re spot on with all of these things – we can stand up and make a difference.

    1. Thank you Summer, I truly feel like at risk kids can be helped if schools took a more proactive role in their well being. I understand budgets of public schools are tight but something has to be done. I’m so glad that you have overcome those thoughts.

  3. for a brief period during college, i was an education major. one of the required courses was human growth and learning, and a huge chunk of our grade in that class was a presentation. i’d battled suicidal thoughts daily from the time i was eight; i didn’t learn until i was in my twenties that this stemmed from a chemical imbalance in my brain. so i’d wanted to talk about teenage suicide. by the time the sign up sheet came to me, that subject had already been taken. when i skimmed the list, my heart stopped when i saw the words child suicide. and then i reminded myself of when my troubles began. so i did my research, told my story, gave my report. and at the end, one of my classmates, a black man in his late thirties looked at me and said, so you wanted to kill yourself because you thought you were a failure as a daughter, sister, student and friend? i looked back at him and said when you’re eight, and those are the only jobs you have and you think you suck at ALL of them, that’s a hell of a weight to carry. we’re studying to become teachers. we’re going to see these children more than their parents will. it’s not our job to judge their burdens. it’s our job to help them carry them, and if we can’t, then we need to find someone who can. i was so, SO livid, partly because i knew by the way he looked at me and asked his question that he saw a white woman… with her white privilege and how could she possibly know about struggle, but more because how dare, how DARE he to be such a callous bastard? i wanted to slap him. the “reasons” don’t matter. what matters is that anyone should think their lives are so meaningless and tragic that they should end.

    i’m so, so very sorry to read of your loss. i can imagine, to an extend, the hell she must’ve endured, how horrible her inner landscape must’ve been. i’m sorry that she couldn’t find the light. i’m sorry that her death has forever changed your inner landscape.

    1. I completely understand what you’re saying about your thoughts at age 8. I’m sorry to say that my 8 year old, in her anger and frustration, says things like she wishes she was never born. The pain I feel when she says these things is very hard to explain. It’s like something heavy is pressing on my chest. You’re very brave for sharing your story and to the man who made the comment, people are very close minded when it comes to a child killing themselves. That’s why a majority of schools in this country do not have a formal suicide prevention program. They feel like if they don’t talk about it, it will never happen in their school. It’s sad but it gives me the drive to change something. To be the voice of so many, that feel like they don’t have one. Thank you for your comment

    1. I agree Meg. Thank you so much, it is something I will change in this country and possibly the world. Schools can’t act like, “it’s not our problem because something like that would never happen here….” Until it does. I will change how this country sees suicide prevention and mental health issues. You can’t close your eyes and wish it away. Thank you so much for your comment Meg

  4. This is an incredibly well researched and thorough post on a topic that many individuals may not even think about, let alone wish to speak about. I work with children and youth, many in crisis situations, and one of the biggest concerns I hear is a young person feeling unheard or misunderstood. As a parent, friend, acquaintance or passerby, one of the single biggest supportive acts an individual can do for a young person is just to be there, and *really* listen to the pain a young person may be in. I also like your suggestions for coping skills young people can learn. Thank you for posting!

    1. Thank you, this means so much coming from you, Heather. Coping skills should be the first thing kids are taught, after if you can’t talk to a parent, find someone, anyone to talk to. I so want to be someone kids all around this country could talk to. Could say how they feel and what they’re scared of, and the pressure on a young person today. I want to be a person who is always available, 24 hours a day, to speak to parents and their children about stressors and coping skills and risk factors and how to talk to a kid you think might be suicidal. I want nothing more than for kids to know that someone cares, someone understands, someone will listen. Thanks again Heather!

  5. I believe there are many issues that young people are facing that may lead them down the path of suicide. Mental health has been coming to the forefront recently, and awareness campaigns are reducing the stigma around mental health. I do believe that technology and social media are also contributing factors. We live in a world that minimizes face to face contact with people more and more. It gives us little reason to leave the house, which takes away of the sense of community that many of us grew up a part of.

    1. OMG, I completely agree Denise. I have to say, my girls are outside, playing with kids from the neighborhood. They have electronics but are not allowed online with them. Mine are still young (11, 9, and 8) but my step-daughter who is 14 does not put her phone down EVER!!! Thank you for reading Denise!

  6. It’s heartbreaking to see so many kids committing suicide and I so agree that there are a million things we can do about it. I love what you said about hopelessness and it’s so true. Hopelessness comes from being in a bad place and feeling like there’s nothing you can do to fix it.

    If we focused less on kid’s grades and more on fulfillment, I feel like a lot of this would be fixed. The recipe for fulfillment is growth + contribution. Sitting in a classroom for 8 hours a day isn’t exactly getting our kids to grow. Our education system teaches kids how to sit still and regurgitate information that they can learn on google. If we taught them stuff that they value and will truly benefit from – financial education, public speaking, leadership, etc. They’ll learn how to work together, how to communicate in a more positive way and will be growing at the same time… It’s just going to take a complete change of our education system and sadly, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

    1. Alexa, you and I definitely have to have some coffee time lol. I believe that children need to learn coping, life, and emotional health skills. Kids need to build confidence, and learn how to change their mindset, to not except others opinions of them. God, I can’t wait to get into a school, even if it’s one school, and tell kids that they’re not alone, this will not last forever, and you have someone, even if it’s only one person, who loves and needs you.

  7. What scary statistics. 9 year olds…9!? I’ve been reading about these social media ‘games’ that and with you killing yourself. How crazy is that. In the UK childhood mental health and wellbeing has been in the news only this week with many schools now taking this very seriously. I hope your post helps anyone who may need it

    1. 9 years old…..crazy right. It’s so scary. I have been researching for my Board of Education meeting coming up, and the statistics are astounding. Just in my country alone from 2009-2011, 475 kids tried to kill themselves?!?!?! Thank you so much for your comment

  8. This is a great post – I am going to work on the Peace Begins with You bit with my son. I lost my grandpa to suicide in May 2009 so it is a very personal subject for me (as it is for you.) I was diagnosed with PTSD after his death and have had suicidal ideation myself so I totally understand the emotions. My son, 9, has special needs and sometimes, my biggest fear is him hurting himself. Thank you so much for this post. The tips for parents were great and I am definitely going to pass those on to my kids!

    1. Thank you for sharing your story with me Leila, I sincerely appreciate it. Stay tuned because I am going to be starting a whole series on Mindset Makeovers for your kids. Really these practices can be used for any age, but I really want to focus on kids. They are their worst critics, if we can quiet that self loathing voice in their heads maybe we can change the world. Thank you again for your comment.

  9. Although a tough topic, this was a great post on prevention. I am in disbelief how commonplace suicide has been the past decade. I was in some pretty big school districts growing up and this simply did not happen. I hope families, schools and communities can work together to make every child feel loved and worthy of life so they don’t second guess themselves.

    1. That’s exactly what I’m trying to accomplish with this site. I am going to try my hardest to set the president for suicide prevention/emotional intelligence in schools. Thank you for comment Brianne

  10. A very good article. I know a few young people who committed suicide years ago. Of course, no one should go thru stress and trauma to that extent. Recently, a man not only committed suicide but killed his wife and 2 yr old before that. Suicide comes in all ages, and we need to start helping at the root: the mind.

    1. I completely agree Cindy. I am going to start a series on my site called Mindset Makeover, to help kids (and adults) try to quiet the self defeating thoughts in their heads. It will be a whole series with videos and exercises to try. I am very proud and excited for the release. Be on the look out for a sign up for it. Thank you so much for your comment

  11. Thank you for sharing this. I experienced the effects of suicide in my family when I was in third grade. It still affects our family today. As part of a blended family, I’m aware of the extra challenges that our children face just because their parents divorced. I love the idea you gave with “peace begins with me.” I will have to try that when emotions are running high!

    1. Thank you. I’m trying really hard to have an emotional intelligence program introduced in schools. I feel it is so important.

  12. There is a lot of pressure on kids to be perfect today, and that doesn’t help the depression! I love the added statistics and how we can help kids to prevent suicides.

    1. Thank you and I agree with you. A lot is expected of children and they need guidance on how to deal with emotions as they come up. Thank you for your comment

    1. I agree April. Kids are getting it from every angle: parents, teachers, coaches, friends. They need an outlet for their emotions and simple ways to deal with stressors. Thank you for your comment

  13. This topic has just come to my attention recently. My town has had 4 teen suicides in the last few months. Thanks for helping people through your writing.

    1. WOW, that is a lot of suicides!! Has the school system done anything, any prevention programs in place now or before?

  14. I definitely want my kids to know how to handle emotions and I myself want to be aware of what they are feeling. thank you for this detailed article!

    1. Thank you, sometimes it’s hard for kids to talk to their parents about issues, that’s why I always say to give your kids a trusted adult they trust, so they can talk to them about anything. Thank you for your comment

  15. These stats are heartbreaking! I had no idea how widespread it was in children so young! Thank you for posting about something that impacts us all and ways we can be the change to help stop this sad and devastating problem!

    1. Thank you for your comment Eryn. It is heartbreaking, in January, an 8 year old killed himself from Ohio….. 8 years old, 3rd grade. It is just so shockingly awful to read about this stuff. Something has to be done. Thank you again for your comment

  16. This was a fantastic post. Well thought out and so informative. I plan on referring back to it. I am putting together a night on suicide at our church for Suicide awareness month in September and plan on referring back to this post. Thank you. Maree

    1. I am so sorry about your sister. Losing someone we love is so difficult and when it is to suicide it adds a layer to the grieving. Thank you for taking this tragedy and bringing good out of it.

    2. Thank you so much Maree. It is such an important topic. People are very afraid to speak to kids about but it has gotten too far. Thank you again

  17. I am so glad I have come across this post. More and more now we hear about these things. Being a parent, I want to do everything I can to learn about the why. I am so sorry for your loss.

    1. Thank you Safira. I have made it my mission to end the stigma around mental illness and educate parents on how to talk to their kids about suicide and mental health issues. Thank you again

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