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Teenage suicide in the United States remains comparatively high in the 15 to 24 age group with 4,599 suicides in this age range in 2004, making it the third leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24. By comparison, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death for all those age 10 and over, with 33,289 suicides for all US citizens in 2006.[1]

In the United States, as of 2005, the suicide rate for both males and females age 24 and below is lower than the rate for ages 25 and up.[2]

Population differences

Sex ratio

In the U.S., male adolescent(s) every 17minutes somes one commit suicide at a rate five times greater than that of female adolescents, although suicide attempts by females are three times as frequent as those by males. A possible reason for this is the method of attempted suicide for males is typically that of firearm use, with a 78-90% chance of fatality. Females are more likely to try a different method, such as ingesting poison [3]. Females have more parasuicides. This includes using different methods, such as drug overdose, which are usually less effective.

Ethnic groups

Suicide rates vary for different ethnic groups due to cultural differences. In 1998, suicides among European Americans accounted for 84% of all youth suicides, 61% male and 23% female. However, the suicide rate for Native Americans was 19.3 per 100,000, much higher than the overall rate (8.5 per 100,000). The suicide rate for African Americans has increased more than twofold since 1981. A national survey of high school students conducted in 1999 reported that Hispanic students are twice as likely to report an attempted suicide than Caucasian students [3].

2007 study

On September 6, 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suicide rate in American adolescents (especially boys, 10 to 24 years old) increased 8% (2003 to 2004), the largest jump in 15 years. Specifically, in 2004 there were 4,599 suicides in Americans ages 10 to 24, up from 4,232 in 2003, for a rate of 7.32 per 100,000 people that age. Before, the rate dropped to 6.78 per 100,000 in 2003 from 9.48 per 100,000 in 1990. The findings also reported that antidepressant drugs were more likely to reduce suicide risk than increase it. Psychiatrists found that the increase is due to the decline in prescriptions of antidepressant drugs like Prozac to young people since 2003, leaving more cases of serious depression untreated. In a December 2006 study, The American Journal of Psychiatry said that a decrease in antidepressant prescriptions to minors of just a few percentage points coincided with a 14 percent increase in suicides in the United States; in the Netherlands, the suicide rate was 50% up, upon prescription drop.[4]

LGBT youth

A 1989 U.S. government study found that LGBT youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people.[5] This finding was supported by a 2001 study that found LGBT adolescents 2.3-2.5 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers.[6]

Causes in teenage suicide

Teenage suicide is not caused by any one factor, but likely by a combination of them. Depression can play a massive role in teenage suicide. Some contributing factors include:

Perceived lack of parental interest is a major factor in teenage suicide. According to one study, 90% of suicidal teenagers believed their families did not understand them.[7]

Depression is the most common cause of suicide. About 75% of those individuals who commit suicide are depressed. Depression is caused by a number of factors, from chemical imbalances to psychological make-up to environmental influences.[8][9]

Suicide prevention


Promoting overall mental health among adolescents is key to reducing possible suicidal thoughts.

Means reduction

Johnson and Coyne-Beasley have argued that limiting young people's access to lethal means, such as firearms, has reduced means-specific suicide rates.[10] A 2004 study based on suicides between 1976 and 2001 found an 8.3% reduction in suicides by 14-17 year-olds with the implementation of state child access prevention (CAP) laws.[11]

Suicide awareness programs

School-based youth suicide awareness programs have been developed to increase high-school students' awareness of the problem, provide knowledge about the behavioral characteristics of teens at risk (i.e., screening lists), and describe available treatment or counseling resources. However, the American Surgeon General David Satcher warned in 1999 that "indiscriminate suicide awareness efforts and overly inclusive screening lists may promote suicide as a possible solution to ordinary distress or suggest that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are normal responses to stress."[12] The 1991 study Satcher cited (reference 45 in the report) for this claim, however, surveyed only two schools over 18 months, and the study's authors concluded that the suicide awareness program had no effect.[13] Satcher's claim, while it may be correct, was not based on a consensus among public health professionals.

Threats of suicide

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention advocates taking suicide threats seriously. Seventy-five percent of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.[14]


A common treatment for a young, suicidal patient is a combination of drug-based treatment (eg. imipramine or fluoxetine) with a 'talking-based' therapy, such as referral to a cognitive behaviour therapist. This kind of therapy concentrates on modifying self-destructive and irrational thought processes.[15] In a crisis situation professional help can be sought, either at hospital or a walk-in clinic. There are also several telephone help numbers for help on teenage suicide, depending on one's location (country/state). In the US, 1-800-SUICIDE [1] will connect to the nearest support hotline. Sometimes emergency services can be contacted.

See also


  1. Suicide: Fact Sheet, 30 March 2006, retrieved 2 May 2006.
  2. Suicide prevention, Country reports and charges, United States of America, World Health Organization. Fetched from web page 15 March 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Youth Suicide Fact Sheet, 1 January 2005, retrieved 2 May 2006.
  4. New York Times, Suicide Rises in Youth; Antidepressant Debate Looms
  5. Feinleib, Marcia R., Ed. Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide. Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (DHHS/PHS), Rockville, MD. 1989
  6. Russell ST, Joyner K (August 2001). "Adolescent sexual orientation and suicide risk: evidence from a national study". Am J Public Health 91 (8): 1276–81. PMC 1446760. PMID 11499118.
  7. "AAP - Preventing Teen Suicide". American Academy of Pediatrics. 2006-08-27. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
  10. Johnson RM, Coyne-Beasley T (October 2009). "Lethal means reduction: what have we learned?". Curr. Opin. Pediatr. 21 (5): 635–40. doi:10.1097/MOP.0b013e32833057d0. PMID 19623078.
  11. Webster DW, Vernick JS, Zeoli AM, Manganello JA (August 2004). "Association between youth-focused firearm laws and youth suicides". JAMA 292 (5): 594–601. doi:10.1001/jama.292.5.594. PMID 15292085.
  12. "The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent Suicide 1999", United States Department of Health and Human Services, 21 July 2004, retrieved 2 May 2006.
  13. Vieland V, Whittle B, Garland A, Hicks R, Shaffer D (September 1991). "The impact of curriculum-based suicide prevention programs for teenagers: an 18-month follow-up". J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 30 (5): 811–5. PMID 1938799.
  14. "When you fear someone will take their own life". American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 2006-08-27. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
  15. "Treatments: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy". depresioNet. 2004-01-08. Archived from the original on 2006-08-21. Retrieved 2006-08-27.

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