To Kevin and all the others who knew and loved him, Brad’s suicide serves as a constant reminder of how precious life is. To the statisticians who keep the numbers on suicide, Brad is just another statistic. He is one of approximately 4600 American youth between the ages of 10 and 24 who take their own lives every year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people. The most recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of teenagers in grades 9-12 in both public and private schools found that 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reported trying to take their own life.
There is no complete account of suicide attempts in the United States, but the most recent data found that approximately157,000 youth between 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the United States. While girls attempt to take their own lives more often than boys, boys are four times more likely to die from suicide — most often by firearms. New studies show that bully victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.
Even in the best of times, young people are faced with an avalanche of changes and expectations. Parents expect you to become an independent person, capable of making your own decisions and taking care of yourself. Teachers and parents expect you to decide what to do after graduation and how to do it. Your friends expect you to fit in. As if that’s not enough, your body is experiencing great physical and biochemical changes. One minute you are elated; the next you feel depressed.
It’s not surprising that the teen years and beyond are often filled with fear, loneliness, and insecurity. What is surprising is that young people today seem less able or less willing to cope with the same changes and expectations their parents faced not so long ago.
According to one study of seven thousand high school students, one out of every five teens reported severe problems with self-esteem, feelings of failure, alienation, loneliness, lack of self-confidence, low self-regard, and thoughts of suicide.
While suicide is officially the third-biggest killer of young people behind accidents and homicide, many experts are convinced that many of the accident victims are suicides in disguise. Because the stigma attached to suicide is so great, officials as well as parents often report that a suicide was an accident. If the victim does not leave a suicide note or other proof that his or her death was intentional, the death might be intentionally or wrongly ruled an accident or a homicide.
Car accidents, for example, account for about 37 percent of all deaths in the fifteen-to twenty-four-year-old age group. Of these deaths, experts speculate that approximately 25 percent are intentional. The victims committed autocide; they caused their own deaths by driving recklessly with the intent of dying. However, because there is no way of proving that these deaths were intentional, they go down in the record books as accidents.
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