Teen Suicide Has Increased Dramatically

Dr. Jean Twenge states in her article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation, that teen depression and suicide is at record peaks and that these dangerous trends precisely match the emergence and use of smartphones and social media.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019, reporting on 2017 data,20,21 suicide is now the second cause of death among 10-24 year-olds, behind accidental deaths and before homicides. The following charts from the CDC show the trend among age groups in suicide and homicide deaths.

The teen years, when you are in them, can at times be difficult and overwhelming. Social media can make it appear like everyone else has a better or easier life. However, as you will continue to see in this course, there is a whole life ahead of you. At the same time, there are some decisions you make now as a young person that can have long-term consequences.

That is why you are being asked in this course to make some mature decisions about what activities you will and will not do, and to think about how your decisions and actions may impact you and others in the future. For example, a 15-year-old girl sends a picture of herself without clothes to her boyfriend. He then sends it to his friends and posts it on social media after they break up. She ends up being cyberbullied, losing friends, and believing that everyone is talking about her. As a result, she feels that her one-time decision to send a picture to her boyfriend will end up haunting her forever. She considers suicide to be the only answer because she sees no hope for it to ever change or get better.

The reality is that there are cycles for everything in life; things always get better. People move on. Think about news headlines, and how what is ‘news’ one day ends up being forgotten and something ‘new’ is on the news. That does not mean that we can act without concern for how our actions impact other people. Our actions can sometimes create devastation which causes ripple effects you may not even see. Think about a time when you were hurt by another. The person that did that may not even have a clue how much hurt they caused you and those who love you.

Everyone feels that life is overwhelming at times. Know that when times are tough, or things feel overwhelming, to hang in there because it will get better. Sometimes the ‘better’ comes the very next day, sometimes it is a month away, and sometimes it may take a bit longer. Suicide is never the answer. This same girl, when she is 85 years old looking back on her life, will see that everyone moved on within months, the friends she lost were never true friends to begin with, and she learned to not make decisions that have consequences that she does not want to live with. She ends up having a full and wonderful life and barely remembers that one blip that happened in her life.

Do not lose hope. If you are taking this course because of decisions you have made, know that you can learn from this, and that you are not defined by your decisions. Whether you made decisions that hurt others, or others made decisions that hurt you, you are more than that. You are an important person who is very much needed in the world because there is only one YOU.

References

20CDC Adolescent Health (scroll down to “Leading Causes of Death”) - https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/adolescent-health.htm

21CDC NCHS Data Brief, October 2019, Death Rates Due to Suicide and Homicide Among Persons Aged 10-24: United States, 2000-2017 - https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db352-h.pdf