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Suicide: An Epidemic Among Youth

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Shulanda J. Hastings

Ambassador Shulanda

Ambassador Shulanda

Shulanda J. Hastings is an inspirational writer, Christian counselor and an ambassador to the faith-based community; helping them break mental health barriers. She is the author of the Beauty of My Thorns novel series and of the memoirs, Keeping My Faith While Saving My Mind.

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Tragedies are occurring everyday within our nation and across our countries. Most are so devastating that they are headliners in newspapers and breaking news on broadcast media stations.

The World Heath Organization informs us when there is an alarming disease that is detrimental to our health or possibly fatal to our lives.

These tragedies are well known because they make the news.

They are talked about.

But there is another tragedy occurring everyday in our own backyards; in our own communities.

Suicide among youth.

Recently, I presented at a collegiate child welfare seminar and there were relevant topics that needed to be discussed among professionals working with children such as bullying and human trafficking.

But in the breakout session I facilitated entitled: “Suicide: An Epidemic Among Youth”, unsurprisingly, my audience was not aware of how young people are affected by suicide.

Unfortunately, this is the normal reaction.

Surveying audiences by show of hands and dialogue, some have heard of adults or famous people losing their lives to suicide, but not teens and adolescents.

This is why in addition to my mental health advocacy I find it necessary to dedicate a week of Teen Suicide Awareness. 

As already noted, issues like bullying and human trafficking are major issues affecting our youth. These along with peer pressure, mental disorders and every day stressors are contributing factors causing young people to experience depression that leads to suicide.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of high school students admitted to being bullied on school property and 15% electronically. Victims of bullying are at risk of mental health problems.

This month a 15-year-old girl in Tampa, Florida committed suicide after being bullied online.

Typically, there is no single event that causes one to commit suicide. Rather, it is a result of many factors over a period of time.

During a period of time, teens, as with adults dealing with a crisis, face the challenges of dealing with a mental illness. When stress isn’t properly managed or a crisis situation isn’t addressed it causes one to become severely depressed.

Approximately 1 in 4 of high school students admitted to feelings of sadness or hopelessness for a period of two weeks or more (TN Department of Education, Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2013). These students are not seeking professional help. Most cases their parents are not aware that their children are depressed.

Mental illnesses such as depression will not just go away. They will linger and fester inside the mind, causing behavioral problems. According to the National Institute of Health, at the time of completion, more than 90% of suicide victims suffered from a mental disorder.

These are not youth who were born with problems. These are everyday youth who start a school year as the typical energetic and hopeful teen; eager to learn, be involved in recreational activities, experience their anticipated high school years and make a lifetime of memories.

As with life, challenges occur. As adults, we can not underestimate the level of stress that youth deal with or the depth it affects them.

As adults, we have to work towards zero suicide. Because right now, having the age group of 15-24 keep a steady rate of suicide being the third to fourth leading cause of death is too high.

One suicide among young people is too high.

Especially when it is the most preventable health condition.

Will you advocate?

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