Teen Suicide Myths, Facts, and Statistics
By Greg Howard
The CyberBully Hotline team has been working to build awareness about teen suicide in recent months, and this article is one of our efforts to do that. Here, we present five teen suicide myths, along with the statistics and facts that disprove these myths.
Myth #1: Suicide isn’t very common among teens.
Truth: Suicide is the third leading cause of death behind accidents and homicide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We lose about 4,600 teens to suicide each year – an average of more than a dozen teens per day.
Myth #2: Suicide would never happen to a teen in your community.
Truth: Teens of all races, states, socioeconomic backgrounds, and gender identities die from suicide. In fact, statistics tell us that the overall rate of teen suicide has increased dramatically over the past few decades, and a rise has been seen in most major racial and socioeconomic groups. Whether you work for a top-flight private school in the Northeast, an inner city school on the West Coast, a rural school in the Midwest, or another kind of school somewhere else, suicide can happen in your school community.
Myth #3: Teens who threaten to commit suicide need attention, not treatment.
Truth: Seventy five percent of people who die from suicide let others know they are considering suicide before taking their lives. That staggering number should make us all pause and recognize that many suicides are preventable. When a teen tells you they are thinking of suicide, assume they are telling the truth and get them the help they need.
Myth #4: Talking with teenagers about suicide places the idea in their heads and should be avoided.
Truth: If you suspect that a teen is considering suicide, there’s a good chance that they are, and talking about it can help them begin to work through their feelings. Mere talk of suicide does not push teens into it, and avoiding the subject can prevent you from getting help for someone who is actually considering suicide.
Myth #5: There is nothing that can be done to prevent suicide.
Truth: Many people believe that suicidal people are determined to end their lives, but this simply isn’t true. Mental health professionals say that most suicidal teenagers do want to live and are searching for reasons to remain hopeful. Moreover, while it is true that we can’t prevent every single suicide, we can absolutely do more to keep suicidal teens from going over the edge. School leaders can work with organizations such as the Suicide Prevention Resource Center to build suicide prevention programs in their schools and districts.
The facts are clear: thousands of students are struggling with suicidal thoughts, and as long as these teen suicide myths are perpetuated, more preventable deaths will take place. Take time to learn more about suicide prevention and review your school’s efforts to help prevent teen suicide.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you are not alone, and there is hope. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to be connected with a counselor in your area.
School leaders can implement a CyberBully Hotline program at their school to help students with suicidal thoughts come forward and report their problems. Click here to request more information.