A/N: A friend's essay.
Suicide has ranked as first in Europe and Southeast Asia, and closely second in the US as a cause of death for adolescents. Further research has additionally concluded that the frequency of suicides increases in correlation with the chronological progression through adolescence (Gould, et al), increasing significantly in older adolescents before stabilizing in early adulthood and maintaining this level until the sixth decade (McLoughlin, et al). In correlation, a recent rise in the prevalence of mental disorders has additionally been observed among the youth. Whilst the frequency of mental illness mirrors that of suicidality, increasing alongside the continuance of adolescence (“Mental Health By the Numbers”), recently, 1 in 5 adolescents, ages ranging from childhood to late teenage years, are believed to currently experience a severe mental disorder ("Mental Health By The Numbers"). A direct relationship is clear among suicidality and mental illness, observed keenly in the individual, unprecedented records each sets in its own abundance, seemingly parallel to the other aptly in youth. It can be thus understood that, in adolescence, the effects of mental illness are elevated, therefore increasing density of occuring suicides isolated to that demographic—something concerning the specific nature of adolescence prompts this. Elevated suicide rates among the youth can be attributed to a rise in mental illness, often aided by experience with bullying, exposure to the media, and drug activity.
Depression, as characterized most habitually by sentiments of despondency, is a mood disorder most commonly associated with suicidality. Feelings of worthlessness and excessive or inappropriate guilt tend to consume the thoughts of those who host the illness, presently instilled in daily life, expressed by subtle behaviours that all serve as a small indication of such emotions. Such behaviours, as derived from a lack of physical worth, tend to be palpable in nature—significant weight gain or loss; sleep patterns veering from one extreme, insomnia, to another, hypersomnia; fatigue or loss of energy; change in activity, ranging from psychomotor agitation, the unnecessary, compulsive moving of the body, to retardation. Other inclinations include the impaired function of normal activities, such as are decreased concentration, breeding indecisiveness; and anhedonia, an inability to feel pleasure. The final symptom, not necessarily physical, though still with its origins in worthlessness: suicidality in and of itself. (“Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder and Depressive Episodes”).
Depression can be acquired just as any severe illness can, both genetically and environmentally. Genetically, several studies have been conducted validating the heritability of the illness. In one of the copious case studies pertaining to the subject, five family studies of major depression were proposed, each study contributing evidence in support of the familial aggregation of major depression in probands, the individual whom was first affected, compared with comparison subjects. Across each study, there was strong evidence for an association between major depression in the proband and major depression in first-degree relatives (Sullivan, et al). Further investigation has shown the genetic predisposition of depression to be 70% (Pezawas, et al).
Environmental factors can be both be the derivation of Depression and an exacerbation of a pre-existing illness.
Bullying, as defined as aggressive behavior or intentional ‘‘harm doing’’ by one person or a group, generally carried out repeatedly and over time, and which involves a power differential (Hinduja and Patchin), is, arguably, the largest environmental factor niche to an adolescent demographic. Not yet matured to independence, hundreds of youth congregate in the confines of a school building, limited in capacity and supervision. Opportunity is inevitable. Studies report 42% of students to concede to such an argument; 17% of students reported being bullied, 19% reported bullying others, and 6% reported both being bullied and bullying others ‘‘sometimes’’ or ‘‘weekly’ (Hinduja and Patchin).
Such interaction, though objectively condemned and partial without consideration, clearly done in a deliberate effort to empower the perpetrator, leaves no participant unscathed. Youth who are exposed to bullying—as the perpetrator or the victim—are at an elevated risk of suicidality (Klomek, et al). Such can be understood when regarding research that shows how experience with peer harassment, in either respect, contributes to depression—eliciting decreased self-worth, hopelessness, and loneliness—all of which are precursors to suicidal thoughts and behavior (Hinduja and Patchin); those involved, compared to non-victims, found to very quickly exhibit high levels of suicidal ideation (Klomek, et al).
Its latest evolution, cyberbullying, is characterized as willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices (Hinduja and Patchin). As the proliferation and accessibility of technology advances, the growing platform for bullying falls into the hands of an ever expanding audience. Such has been seen in 25-55% of students who attest to their involvement; approximately 15– 35% of students have been victims of cyberbullying while about 10–20% of students admit to cyberbullying others. Within few years of its proliferation, numerous cases emerged of suicide either indirectly or directly influenced by experiences with online aggression; it has only grown in density (Hinduja and Patchin).
Drugs and other addictive substances can be very harmful to the human body. They can also be extremely problemental when it comes to our mental health. Just by having a drug or alcohol addiction makes you 6 times more likely than those who do not have a substance addiction (Dragisic et al.). The reason for this tremendous increase in suicide rates for those who abuse substances coincides with the fact that drug and other substance abuse shows signs of leading people to more impulsive behavior (Diu, Nisha Lilia.). This can be an issue because those who abuse substances and have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, and who have thoughts of attempting suicide are much more likely to actually attempt suicide due to their extremely impulsive behavior. And to add to the issue in most cases of suicide committed by drug and substance abusers an overdose is the primary cause of death. (Dragisic et al.)
Copycat suicide is the theory that there is a correlation between suicide in the population, and suicide shown in the media. Copycat suicide is based upon the terms of social learnings theory, which says that when one with mental illness views another person with mental illness commit suicide as an escape for themselves the viewers are more likely to use suicide as an escape from their own predicament. (Stack, Steven) The largest case of reported copycat suicide occurred after the infamous suicide of Marilyn Monroe. Typically after a suicide is projected through the media the rate of attempted suicide spikes to about 2.5% higher, but after the suicide of Marilyn Monroe suicide rates spiked to a steep rate of 12% more.(Stack, Steven) This is incredibly concerning considering the spike in mental health issues that could be affecting celebrities, and with more suicides in the media the more suicides occur to the general population. This is why Copycat suicide is so incredibly dangerous.
Mental illness and suicide rates have a shocking correlation. More than 90% of of suicides are committed by someone who was proven to be a victim of mental illness (Mann, et al.) An even more shocking fact is that 60 to 70% of those with mental illness who commit suicide suffer from depression. This mental illness can do serious harm to the human mind, and eventually as noted be to much pressure for some to bear, rather than reach out for help some people's only escape is to take their own life. Because of this those who suffer from depression are 25 times more likely to commit suicide than those who do not suffer from depression (“Depression and Suicide Risk”). This is very alarming because out of the entirety of youth ⅕ suffer from depression, and as rates of mental illness only keep on rising in the youth we can only hope to find a way to help these children, and lower the suicide rate for youths.
Though mental illness still looms above the heads of adolescents, persisting as time wears and opportunities arise, with its prevalence breeds awareness, in on way or another. Numerous diverse approaches to suicide prevention have been incorporated into high school curriculums in the past 15 years (Aseltine, et al), though none have worked as efficiently as those introduced as of late. The Signs of Suicide Program, a school-based prevention program, combines efforts to raise awareness of suicide and its related issues with a brief screening for depression and other risk factors associated with suicidal behavior. The program promotes the relationship between mental illness and suicidality, instructing students as to the appropriate approach to take when recognizing its characteristics in themselves and others. It provides depression screenings, offering further consolation to students registering as clinically depressed. With its goal in mind, “to raise awareness of suicide and its related issues with a brief screening for depression and other risk factors associated with suicidal behavior,” it has found marginal success, striving beyond expectation, as its students report significant gains in relevant knowledge and attitudes toward help seeking and intervening with afflicted peers, those attending sessions reporting a decrease in depression and an increase in personal control, problem-solving, coping, self-esteem, and family support (Aseltine, et al). If other programs strive to do as they have, promoting education and providing aid to those in need, hopefully, the epidemic of suicide among the youth will be extinguished.