I’m not a stranger to suicide. My mother’s first cousin took her own life, but the cause of her death was listed as an “accident.”
Three days before my wedding to my ex-husband, his aunt took her own life. Didn’t know whether or not to cancel the wedding. We went ahead.
My brother took his life on his thirtieth birthday. It’s one thing to consider the death of someone you love; it’s quite another to face the reality that he is gone. Even though it’s been years since his suicide, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t look at his photo on my desk and wish more than anything that he were still here. If only I had known what to do or where I could have gone for professional help.
Let’s face it: talking about suicide isn’t easy. I get that. But the sad reality is that teen suicide is a serious problem: dead serious. The number of teens who take their own lives has mushroomed. In 2015, a new study by the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reached a 40-year high. Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for those girls doubled. For young males, there was a 31 percent increase.
The statistics don’t lie, even if they are just numbers on a page without a story—without the beginning, middle, and end of a friend’s, a classmate’s, a child’s, a neighbor’s, even a sibling’s life.
We can never know for sure, but the best estimates show that more than 5,240 teens in grades seven through twelve attempt suicide every day. (One teen girl who’d attempted suicide a few years earlier said, “Suicide is the bravest thing someone can do!”) More than five thousand teens die every year—that’s more teens than die from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. And the news gets worse (as if it could) because the most recent survey reports that suicide attempts are four times greater for LGB (lesbian/gay/ bisexual) teens than their straight peers and that these attempts are four to six times more likely to result in medical treatment. Among the starkest findings is that 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide in their lifetime—nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S.
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