Youth suicide is the third leading cause of death for persons between 15-24 years of age, and almost 4,600 youth deaths each year are the result of suicide for a person 10-24 years of age (Smischney, Chrisler, & Villarruel, 2014). Learning of these numbers is very discouraging considering that suicide can be prevented by recognition and implication of interventions. Adolescents may present to family, friends, or teacher’s signs of suicidal behavior such as talk of suicide, threat of suicide, or risky behavior. Sometimes the adolescent may not display warning signs before committing suicide. It is important to identify risk factors that can lead to suicide. Risk factors that contribute to suicidal ideation are biological, environmental, and psychological factors (Smischney et al., 2014).
Biological risk factors include gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. The male gender is 4 times greater to attempt suicide that results in death, whereas female adolescents experience higher rates of depression. Native American or Alaska Natives that are between the ages of 15-24 are at a 2.4 percent higher rate than the national average. Suicidal ideation is higher amongst gay and bisexual male adolescents than heterosexual male adolescents. This may due to the adolescent’s parents or friends lack of approval or support (Smischney et al., 2014).
Environmental risk factors that contribute to suicide include family stress and conflict such as divorce, death of a loved one, academic failure, and abuse. During adolescence, peer relationships greatly contribute to suicide. Adolescents who suffer from poor social skills, low self-esteem, and lack support from their peers are at greater risk for suicidal ideation (Smischney et al., 2014).
Psychological risk factors contributing to adolescent suicide include mental health problems, psychiatric disorders, poor coping skills, and substance abuse. Mental health disorders include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. Alcohol is often experienced with by adolescents. Female adolescents are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide and male adolescents are 17 times more likely to attempt suicide when alcohol is involved (Smischney et al., 2014).
Primary, secondary, and tertiary heath prevention measures can be taken to prevent suicide. Primary prevention can be implemented by addressing the topic of suicide with adolescents, identifying risk factors of suicide, and talking about ways to avoid risk factors that can lead to suicide. Secondary prevention can be done by addressing risk factors that the adolescent is experiencing and implementing healthy and effective interventions. This will help to reduce the chance of the adolescent following through with the act of suicide. Tertiary prevention should include providing support and resources to the adolescent, as well ensuring safety. Measures should be taken to prevent the adolescent from attempting and succeeding at suicide.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center is a resource that provides contact information and suicide prevention plans specific for each state. This information can be accessed through the website http://www.sprc.org/states. Adolescents can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-8255, or going online to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Both of these resources offer support to those who are experiencing a suicidal crisis. As a nurse if you suspect a depressed adolescent is in immediate danger of harming themselves, immediate intervention should be implemented such as ensuring the safety of the adolescent. If the nurse is physically present at the adolescent’s side, taking the adolescent to a safe environment and informing a physician is important to prevent harm or injury. If the nurse is talking with the adolescent over the phone and the adolescent is posing immediate danger to themselves, proper authorities should be notified and full detail of the adolescent’s location and situation should be provided.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (n.d.). Get help. Retrieved from https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Smischney, T. M., Chrisler, A., & Villarruel, F. A., (2014). Risk factors for adolescent suicide: Research brief. Retrieved from https://reachmilitaryfamilies.umn.edu/sites/default/files/rdoc/Adolescent%20Suicide.pdf
Suicide Prevention Resource Center, (2017). Organizations: States. Retrieved from http://www.sprc.org/states
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