Social trouble: Youth suicide rates spike in the U.S.
It’s a tough world out there and the simpler times have long been left behind. For Generation Z’ers that means more problems and alarming trends for young people.
In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report revealing that suicide among teenagers and young adults in the U.S. have increased by a startling 56 percent. It states that from 2007 to 2017, the suicide rates from people aged 10 to 24 rose from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 individuals to 10.6.
While, overall, suicide among the 45 to 64-year-old age group remains the highest and steadiest, what this new information means is that the rate of suicides among teenagers and young college-aged adults is gradually on the rise. And that is a scary reality.
Though accidental deaths are still the leading cause for deaths for young people, attributed to incidents like drug overdoses, drownings and car crashes, suicide has now come in at a close second along with homicide.
With this latest update, the question of why it’s happening has been making the rounds via online conversation from Reddit to the Washington Post. The debated possible causes range from depression to the effects of social media, bullying and changing social structures.
BC professor of sociology and human services program manager Dr. Robert Gallagher says that addiction to online devices is definitely a major factor.
“Generation Z is the first generation to have been fully born into the social media age,” he said. “The theory is that so many kids are attached to their phones and devices that they don’t talk to people anymore.”
He suggests that the lack of proper face-to-face interaction eventually enforces feelings of isolation.
“We are finding that the lack of social interaction prevents students from developing soft skills that develop personality and confidence. Instead, they look for acceptance on social media. When they don’t get it, it increases their sense of loneliness,” he said.
That loneliness is a crucial aspect to suicidal tendencies.
Glenn Thomas, a clinical director for behavioral health in Columbus, Ohio, told CBS News that he believes that the most dangerous aspect about modern-day youth suicide is that it’s potentially contagious.
“When a young person dies by suicide, other young people are at elevated risk because there has been shown to be a contagion effect,” he said. Thomas believes that this is due to suicides being prominent on media outlets like TV and film.
And he could have a point.
Back in 2017 a major controversy erupted when Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why premiered. Its premise revolves around a young teen’s quest to discover the reasons behind his classmate’s suicide.
Many outraged parents and teenagers alike declared that the show glamorized teenage suicide and glossed over the seriousness of it while serving more as a vehicle for cheap drama.
Whether the show is careless with its content is debatable, but the most important factor that sprung up from the controversy was that it had young people and their parents talking. And conversation and identification of suicidal thoughts is key, especially among family.
“Prevention begins at home with the family,” Gallagher stated. “Enforcement from parental figures or mentors is important so that young people learn not to rely just on their phones or computers for communication.”
But if the signs are already there and you notice a fellow friend or classmate seeming isolated or detached, help can begin with one person.
“If you notice signs, I’d say start interacting with that person,” Gallagher offered. “You don’t have to call them out, but start being their friend and talking to them. Let them know that you are there for them. By spending time with them, they’ll realize they can vent to you.”
It’s also important to remember that at BC there are several ways you can reach out if you are a student who feels depressed, has suicidal thoughts or want to learn more about recognition and prevention with BC’s mentor program and student counseling.
However, surprisingly, perhaps the easiest way to reach out is to just head to your favorite professor’s office and chat with them for a while.
“You’d be surprised how many of my students just come to my office to talk,” Gallagher said. “I don’t mind. We want to know you and we want to understand you.”
And having someone who can take time to listen and understand can sometimes make all the difference.
For more information on BC outreach resources you can go to https://www.broward.edu/studentresources/seahawkoutreach. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.