Teenagers undergo a multitude of changes. These changes are physical, hormonal, and socio-emotional. Altered chemicals in the body combined with tough social stigmas and immature brain development create a dangerous internal environment. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) found that suicide rates had doubled between 2007 and 2015 in 15-19 year-olds and tripled in younger teens and preteens.
What’s causing the increase? There’s been a buzz in the media lately surrounding suicide. Recently, rock star Chris Cornell was found dead in his hotel room from an apparent self-hanging, and kids as young as ten have done the same. 11 year-old Tysen Benz hung himself in his closet after hearing that his 13 year-old friend had committed suicide. If he’d only waited, he’d have known that she faked the whole thing.
At 11 years old, Tysen didn’t have the reasoning power of an adult. He didn’t consider the consequences that his actions would have. He was lost in a virtual world created by social media. Teenagers now have access to more social media platforms than their parents could ever have imagined. A new platform emerges daily, and trends are constantly changing.
Parents are now being warned about dangerous challenges that their kids may encounter online. It isn’t just online bullies and trolls. The “Blue Whale” Challenge is all about getting children to do dangerous stunts over a certain time period. The challenges gradually get more deadly over time, culminating in a final challenge, to commit suicide.
While these alarming situations are being brought to the light, the nation is looking for ways to open up the dialogue surrounding depression and suicide. Netflix’s “Thirteen Reasons Why” sought to do just that, but some parents feel it actually triggered suicidal thoughts in their children. The show does contain trigger warnings.
Why are girls more affected? It could be that we live in a world of YouTube makeup tutorials and fitness challenges. Not to mention, bullies are much more vicious behind anonymous online profiles. Girls are already under pressure to be perfect, but they are now facing critics from all over the world, constantly attacking them from their fingertips.
Some teens may not even show signs of depression. Be direct. Talk to your kids about suicide before it’s too late. You know them best, and you’re their first line of defense.