Causes of teenage suicide can be difficult to pinpoint and may involve several factors. Teens go through a vulnerable period at this stage in their lives. No matter how small or big their problems, their troubles may feel unbearable or overwhelming. Noticeable changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from friends and family or violent and aggressive behavior, are among the many signs of potential teen suicide, but parents and mental health care providers also need to understand the causes of suicide in teens for effective prevention.
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Suffering through a major disappointment such as rejection, loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend and failure at school or in sports may trigger suicidal tendencies in teens, who have difficulty coping with these kinds of situations. These circumstances alone may not be responsible for suicide, but they are factors that contribute to a teen's taking extreme measures, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, points out.
Stress, confusion, pressure and worries about self-worth are common problems in many teens that can trigger suicide, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Teens may have to go through parental divorce, moving in with a new family, living in a new location or going to a different school. In some cases, teens may be victims of physical or sexual abuse. These are unsettling matters that intensify uncertain feelings such as distress, anxiety or agitation.
Depression is a major cause of suicide that can be present in the teenage years. This mental disorder can cause feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, according to Kids Health. Depression can be particularly harmful for teens who experience violence at home or at school and feel isolated from their peers or lack a social network of friends. Approximately 75 percent of people who commit suicide suffer from depression, according to the Harris County Psychiatric Center at the University of Texas.
Drug or alcohol abuse can lead to impulsive behavior, especially if a teen is haunted by other problems such as a mental disorder or family difficulties. Like adults who turn to alcohol or drugs, teens may believe that substance abuse will bring them relief from surrounding difficulties, but it only worsens the problems. Substance abuse and mental disorders play prominent roles in a majority of suicides, Kids Health notes.
Genetic components related to brain chemistry may be involved in teen suicides, NAMI notes. Teens with a family history of mental disorders or suicide are at increased risk of suicide or suicide attempts. Being in an environment in which a suicide has occurred with a relative could produce thoughts of suicide for vulnerable teens. Low levels of the brain chemical serotonin may be a cause of suicide, NAMI says. Serotonin controls impulsive actions. Low levels of the chemical may lead to impulsive behavior, including suicide.