A startling report says the suicide rate among teenage girls has spiked to an all-time high, leaving parents and medical professionals desperately seeking for reasons why.
Thirteen of them perhaps? If you watched last year’s runaway Netflix hit “13 Reasons Why” based on the Jay Asher novel and produced by pop star Selena Gomez, then you undoubtedly have suspicions that social media and pop culture have helped to perpetuate this phenomenon.
If you’re not familiar, “13 Reasons Why” chronicles a young girl’s journey to suicide, complete with tapes documenting incidents and people responsible for her decision.
A show that was meant to raise awareness has done as much harm as it has good.
Because the brain of a teenager isn’t fully developed.
They don’t (and can’t possibly) understand the long term ramifications of their decisions. So, the notion that they understand suicide as being FINAL is unlikely. They’re not thinking of the lifelong void that their family and friends will feel long after the initial shock of the loss.
So, they make the threat. Often times, with no intention of following through. And if they do follow through, it’s because they just wanted to be heard. By their parents. By their teachers. By their classmates. Threatening suicide or committing suicide is a cry for help. They’re seeking affirmation that people around them DO care.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows the suicide rate doubled between 2007 and 2015 for girls between the ages of 15 and 19, and it tripled between girls aged 12 to 14.
The government has been tracking these numbers since 1975.
According to Shelley Leaphart-Williams, a member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, adults should not turn a blind eye to a cry for help.
“If they’re talking about death, dying, depression, anxiety,” Leaphart-Williams said. “Ask the hard question. Ask your child, ‘Are you struggling? Do you feel like life would be better without you? Do you have thoughts of suicide?'”
What can we do to help reduce the number of annual teen suicides?
Perhaps we need to start with the way we refer to suicide.
A teen may not understand the meaning of “committing suicide”. Why? Because their whole lives they’ve been taught that “committing” to something is a good thing.
Perhaps we need to call it “completing suicide” because they’ll understand that completing something means final. The end. Game over. No graduation, no marriage, no children.
Secondarily, we need to listen to what they’re not saying. If you’re suspecting that your child is hurting, talking to them. If they’re not crying for help on social media or to their family / friends. Talk to them! They need you. Don’t let them suffer in silence.
Let’s shift the narrative, give them 13 reasons to hold on rather than 13 reasons to “commit” to ending it all.
For information on suicide prevention programs, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.