Every September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.
According to Bridge, Goldstein, and Brent (2006), it is estimated that around 1.3–3.8% of boys and 1.5– 10.1% of girls in the US will attempt suicide sometime during their adolescence.
Many studies concur that the most commonly endorsed motive behind adolescent suicide attempts were “relief, escape, or death”
Yet the same studies show that clinicians tend to see “manipulative motives” behind adolescent suicide attempts. Instead of a suicide survivor who did not receive the care and help they deserved, clinicians are more likely to see an adolescent who was looking to “[determine] whether they are loved or [were] drawing attention to themselves.”
Social stigma has hijacked these adolescents’ identities. It has dragged them through the mud. Social stigmatization is wrong, incorrect, and harmful.
I want to introduce you to Akeemjemal Rollins, a suicide attempt survivor and slam poet. Here is his poem, “Suicide Note,” performed at Rustbelt 2014. I am compelled to share his performance with you today because I cannot imagine how, at the end of the video, anyone could hold onto the false belief that adolescents who attempt suicide hold “manipulative motives”–because AJ is just that brave. AJ is strong and courageous and brilliant.
Trigger-warning: this poem contains details about family conflicts, homophobia, and suicide
It was heartbreaking to read that according to Bridge, Goldstein, and Brent (2006), around 1.3–3.8% of boys and 1.5– 10.1% of girls in the US will attempt suicide sometime during their adolescence.
What is worse, however, is that the paragraph ends with a note that warns that these statistics are likely underestimates because “many youth attempters will not seek treatment or will not be accurately documented.”
Social stigma against mental illness needs to end. We need to open up and provide mental health care for every adolescent.
Mental illnesses like depression can significantly increase the likelihood of self-damaging behavior, including suicide and self-harm. Brenton (2015) identifies mood disorder as one of the most prominent driving factors of suicide ideation among adolescents, the prevalence of which lies between 15 and 25%. In Evans, Hawton, Rodham, and Deeks’s (2005) review of 128 studies, around 13.2% of the over 500,000 adolescents surveyed were found to have reported self-harm at some point.
To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) is one non-profit organization that have risen to meet this need for support. They are “dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide” and “exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.” TWLOHA hosts university talks, community workshops, blogs, and fundraisers to meet their mission. They also host a Youtube channel, on which I walked across this spoken word piece last World Suicide Prevention Day:
Organizations like TWLOHA have done amazing, beautiful, and invaluable work. Yet there is so much more to be done, so many more struggling teenagers to reach out to, so many more stories to share, and so many more hands to hold in the dark.
We need public policy to step up to the challenge. Suicide prevention programs and open access to mental healthcare for teenagers are needed everyday, everywhere.
Suicide Prevention Resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifelife 1-800-273-8255
Support subreddit /r/suicidewatch