For a teenager to be so unbearably unhappy that he would choose to kill himself is something that's almost too painful for a parent to think about. But with the increasing prevalence of teen suicide, no parent can afford to ignore the possibility. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for high-school students. 

Kids look at this world as being more and more hopeless. They have no answer for their pain and despair, so many are choosing suicide as their solution. When I was in high school -- a school with 3,000 students -- I never knew of any of my peers committing suicide. And even in my work years ago as a director of Young Life, suicide among the teens in our region was a very unusual event that I rarely heard of. 

Fact is, before the 1960's, suicide by adolescents happened only rarely; but today, nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. While suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled.

Between the sexes, teen boys are more than four times as likely to commit suicide as girls. But girls are known to think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys. The difference is the method; girls attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves, and thankfully most are found in time and rescued. Boys tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

The Warning Signs

Suicide is a teen's last attempt to ease the pain, to make a statement, or it is just a wrong decision giving a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Teens don't see the bigger picture; they only see the "right now."  They get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment and tend to only think about a week ahead -- that's all.  And when you mix immature short-sightedness with feelings of utter hopelessness, some kids think they cannot live with the pain another day. Other kids who contemplate suicide are filled with rage over teasing by their peers or the way they feel they've been mistreated by family. They choose suicide as a tragic form of payback. 

That reminds me of Kerri. She was the "perfect kid." She loved church, was involved in mission projects, was adored by her brothers, and stayed away from sex, drugs, and alcohol. Her parents allowed their stunning daughter to date at age 16. But on her first date, the guy tried to go too far, and Kerri was shocked and stunned by the encounter.

Her parents asked about the date, and she shared what had happened. Kerri's father, in the heat of the moment, blamed Kerri. His words verbally crucified his daughter. When Kerri stated that what this boy did made her want to commit suicide, her dad said she didn't have the guts to do it. Feeling devalued and misunderstood, Kerri decided to show her dad how gutsy she really was. She got into her parents' medicine cabinet and took 30 sleeping pills. Kerri's parents had no idea what the fight had done to their daughter until dad came upstairs to apologize, found Kerri asleep, and couldn't wake her.

She awoke a few hours later after being rushed to the emergency room and having her stomach pumped. She wasn't rebellious; she was just sending her dad a message. If she showed her dad that he was wrong about her being too afraid to kill herself, she could also prove he was also wrong about the way she handled her date.

Like Kerri, most teens contemplating suicide give some type of warning to friends or loved ones ahead of time. It can be subtle and or it can be blurted out in a rage.  Either way, it's important for parents to watch for those threats or warning signs and take them seriously, so their teen can get the help they need.

Parents should be aware of these other warning signs that their teenager may be having suicidal thoughts: