Research into youth suicide in the UK has revealed key causes and risk factors that can help us save children, teens and young adults all over the world. Here in Canada, suicide is the second highest cause of death among 15-24 year olds, accounting for 24% of all deaths in this age group. The more we know about this alarming issue, the better we’ll get at preventing it.
Youth Suicide Stressors
This study concluded that many factors can contribute to a young person’s decision to commit suicide and its usually a combination thereof.
Top factors anteceding suicide in youth included:
- Upcoming school exams or exam results (27%)
- Bullying (22%) including online bullying (6%)
- Abuse or neglect (15%)
- Academic pressure (15%)
- Losing someone they care about to suicide (13%)
Dealing with adversity early in life can set the stage for suicide later on. Mental illness in the family, abuse or other issues in childhood can lead to negative coping behaviour later on, such as drug abuse. The breaking point can then be reached by events that healthy people cope with and get through, such as a break-up or doing poorly on an exam at school.
Youth Suicide Warning Signs
More often than not, young people gave no indication that they were considering suicide. 43% didn’t try to contact suicide prevention or mental health services. Others, however, did demonstrate a risk of suicide before taking their own life. 27% of those studied had expressed thoughts of suicide in the previous week and 54% had harmed themselves previously.
Monitoring online activity could be one of the most effective ways to detect and analyze suicide risk in youth. 12% of young people in this study researched suicide online and 9% posted suicidal thoughts on the Internet.
The Canadian Mental Health Association shares some common suicide warning signs in youth:
- Sudden change in behaviour (better or worse)
- Losing interest in activities or withdrawing socially
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Recent loss of a loved one, especially by suicide
- Conflicting feelings or shame due to sexual orientation
- Mood swings, emotional outbursts, high level of irritability or aggression
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Preoccupation with death, giving away valued possessions
- Talking about suicide directly or eluding to it
- Engaging in high-risk activity
- Writing or drawing about suicide
- “Worshipping” those who have taken their own life
Suicide by children and young people in England. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCISH). Manchester: University of Manchester, 2016.
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Suicide and Youth
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