Pubdate: Tue, 16 Jul 2002
Source: Suffolk News-Herald (VA)
Copyright: 2002 Suffolk News-Herald
Bookmark: (Youth)


Outside, the summer sky is clear and blue and from north to south, east to 
west, young children are playing. But too many teen-agers are going through 
this season (and the rest of the year) seeing only dark clouds and thinking 
about suicide.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released 
information today from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. 
Included in the data: About 3 million youths from ages 12 to 17 have 
seriously considered killing themselves, or even tried it in 2000. This 
information was collected for the first time in a survey that year. No 
statistics were provided for last year, but this may be due to the time it 
takes to collect such information. Nonetheless, we're inclined to believe 
that the numbers have noticeably risen since that time.

As you might expect, alcohol and illicit drugs are much to blame. In the 
2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 13.7 percent of youths aged 
14-17 considered suicide in the past year. Only 36 percent of them got 
counseling or mental health treatment. Further, those teens that did drink 
or use such drugs were more likely than those who did not partake to think 
about killing themselves.

That's not really surprising when you consider the mind-body connection. 
Abuse your body and certainly this will have an effect on your thinking.

The PBS special about the human brain aired several months ago showed, for 
example, that in adolescence the brain is undergoing another period of 
important development. Drinking alcohol, smoking, using any number of 
drugs, and depriving themselves of crucial sleep have a profound effect.

Even if substance abuse is not a part of a teen-ager's life, there are 
other factors that can contribute to depression or suicide: the hormonal 
changes on the body, concerns about sexuality and self-image; and the 
ever-present matter of peer pressure.

Charles G. Curie, SAMSHA administrator, said recently in a Suicide 
Prevention Advocacy Network meeting "We need to help teens make the link 
between untreated depression and the risk for suicide, and help them 
identify serious depression or suicide risk in a friend. We must encourage 
teens to tell a responsible adult when a friend is at risk for suicide."

Ultimately, parents need to gather up the courage to become more involved 
in their children's lives, to steer them from risky behavior and so-called 
friends. They have a responsibility to explain the facts of life and direct 
them to professional treatment if necessary. When adults do not, they are 
in definite danger of losing what they obviously took for granted. After a 
teen kills his or herself, it's too late.

Curie summarized the report succinctly: "Even one death by suicide is one 
death too many." We couldn't have said it better.
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