Statistics show that the teen suicide rate is a concern, as suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens in the United States. Among those aged 13 to 18, 12.1% have thought about suicide, 4% have made plans for suicide and 4.1% have attempted it. Suicide rates for children are lower, with less than 1% of those under age 12 attempting suicide. 

The teen suicide rate is higher than that of younger children, and there are also differences in suicide rates between genders. Some research shows that being male increases the risk of suicide. However, the rate of suicide in teen girls appears to be on the rise. 

Young Girls and Suicide

While males are historically at a higher risk for suicide, the gender suicide gap may be closing. Between 1975 and 2016, about 80% of teen suicide deaths were among boys, compared to approximately 20% teen girl suicides. Since 2007, however, fatal suicides have increased significantly in girls when compared to boys.

Between 1975 and 2016, the gender suicide gap narrowed. At the start of that period, boys aged 10 to 14 were 3.14 times more likely to commit suicide than girls in the same age range. By the end of that time frame, boys that age were only 1.8 times more likely to commit suicide than girls. Among those aged 15 to 19, boys were 4.15 times more likely than girls to commit suicide at the start of that time frame and only 3.31 times more likely by its end. 

The study also found that girls are using more severe methods in their suicide attempts than in the past. For example, increasing numbers of females are using more lethal suicide methods, such as suffocation or hanging. 

The Pressure to Be Perfect

While there are multiple factors that can contribute to increased suicide risk, it is possible that social media pressures and the pressure to be perfect could contribute to this risk in young women. A study with teenagers in the United States found that those who spent more time on social media and cell phones struggled with more mental health issues. The study authors believed that this could explain some of the increase in depression and suicide among teens. 

When young girls spend time on social media, they may fall victim to bullying. They could also experience social media self-esteem issues when they view photos of peers and compare themselves to others they perceive to be more attractive. One study found that girls who were exposed to more Facebook photos struggled with weight dissatisfaction and distorted body image

While social media can contribute to mental health problems and suicide risk, it is not the only risk factor for teen suicide. The research shows that factors such as depression, sleep problems, stress, alcohol and cigarette use, poor grades, low socioeconomic status and sexual activity are associated with teen suicide. 

Warning Signs of Suicide

Teens who demonstrate certain risk factors are more likely to attempt suicide, and there are warning signs of suicide in youth. According to the Child Mind Institute, the following teen suicide warning signs may be present:

  • Behavioral or personality changes
  • Acting irritable, sad or withdrawn
  • Appearing anxious, tired or apathetic
  • Not finding usual activities enjoyable
  • Changes in normal sleep and eating habits
  • Erratic behavior
  • Poor decision-making
  • Bullying and fighting
  • Talking about dying

In teens, talking about death may involve statements such as, “I wish I weren’t here anymore,” or, “Maybe I should run into traffic.” When teens make such statements, they should be taken seriously. Mental health treatment may be necessary to help teens deal with depression or uncomfortable emotions and develop coping skills. 

If a teenager in your life is struggling with suicide ideation and a co-occurring addiction or substance use disorder, The Recovery Village is here to help. We offer caring treatment services that can address both mental health concerns when combined with addiction. Contact an admissions representative today to learn about treatment options for teens, or to be connected with other resources.

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