There is a suicide epidemic in the United States, and it is only getting worse. According to a recent study, over 700 teenagers from Orange County, California, are hospitalized every year from self-inflicted injuries sustained during an attempted suicide. From 2009 to 2013, 65 teenagers took their own lives, according to the Risk Factors for Teen Self-Injury and Suicide in Orange County study. These gruesome results of a mind-nauseating mental illness have proved that it is time to bring awareness to the mental health of teenagers in the U.S to the forefront of public conversation.
In today’s society, there are multiple research undertakings, support groups, and sympathizers with those who suffer from nearly every modern disease; however, there are still some left out. Mental illness carries a very negative stigma in modern culture. It is one of the least understood factors that plagues the human body and mind. It is a disease that has a story untold, a void of inexplicable self-loathing and hopelessness into which some will fall. The battle over one’s sanity is met with weapons of mass self-harm, an arbiter of freedom to some.
Curtis Condon, research and planning manager at the Orange County Health Agency, stated they study shows that there is a great scarcity of mental health care among the youngest in the population, and this need is continuously unmet. The study cites incidents that involved children in Orange County from ages 10 to 19 from 2009 to 2013. The most evident risk factors for self-harm and suicide were substance abuse, prior suicide threats, and conflicts at school.
The risk factors of suicide do not exactly tell the tale of what is happening deep inside someone. Yes, substance abuse, bullying, and a lack of a safe home life contribute to the facts and figures behind those who take their own life; however, the problem is much simpler, yet impossible to understand.
Some question the validity of the “want” to die. It is not that someone wants to die – the hurt they have experienced throughout their life has only exhausted their soul, leaving them weak and vulnerable to negative thoughts . For people who suffer from mental illnesses, the need to speak out about their inner struggles becomes overwhelming, along with the self-thought necessity to hide those struggles makes suicide a better option. However, nearly all of those who consider ending their own life have watched their self-meaning and self-worth disintegrate over the years, rotting away at a beautiful mind and a beautiful soul, striking it from existence.
Over 81 percent of those who committed suicide were diagnosed with extreme depression; 27 percent suffered from bipolar disorder. The study states that 70 percent of those who injured themselves were girls. Though, boys have a 70 precent rate of attempted suicide. Of these attempts, 51 percent were completed by hanging and strangulation, while firearms results in the deaths of 31 percent of teenagers in the study. One saddening, yet interesting, fact is that the study shows that girls are more susceptible to self-harm as a means of asking for help.
Some may believe the act of asking for help is quite rudimentary and normally conformable in every day life. However, for someone who is considering suicide, it is the most frightening act one may ever encounter. For people with mental illnesses, the simple act of telling a friend, parent, teacher, or trusted confidant is problematic, insofar as they may not understand what one is going through, or, even worse, they may disregard such pleas as “acting out,” or wanting for attention.
Many parents experience their child’s teenage years as a phase of extreme emotions, as they are going through a very turbulent time of hormone processes and gaining more responsibility as they grow older. Though, not all of their questionable actions are rooted in the biological development of a teenager into an adult. Though, the root of subduing emotions lies within the infrastructure of modern society.
Since men are societally inclined to carry themselves in the most masculine demeanor, they are the gender that is most overlooked. Men and boys are constantly reminded that they need to portray themselves as the alpha male among the crowd. This could mean not being emotional, hiding their feelings, and refusing to accept the demise of their psyche. Such pressure from society puts a great deal of stress on the life of a teenage boy, causing the suppression of the true inner voice. When people are forced to give up their individuality to be an accepted member of a civilized society, the true meaning of one’s being is altered, causing a state of confusion on the path of life. Such confusion can be intertwined with a sense of hopelessness and a want to not exist.
Although mental illness is a very controversial and sensitive topic, suicide in teenagers must be confronted. Oladele Ogunseitan, chairman of the University of California – Irvine’s Population Health and Disease Prevention program, said not much is being done to combat mental illnesses at younger ages. It may be difficult to intervene in a teenager’s life when they may be suffering from a mind-numbing mental disease. One of the biggest factors leading to the psychological breakdown of a person is the feeling of control.
In some people’s lives, the matter of control is simply out of reach even for day-to-day tasks. Getting out of bed is not just a sleepy-eyed start to a new day, it is a journey though calcified layers of self-loating, regret, and hate, ending in seeing the sunrise through eyes full of fear. Unbeknownst to many are the battles that ensue as soon as the mind awakes from nightmares about days past, provoking visions of future demise and despair. The feelings of depression are a great, impossible chasm one must leap to see the light just beyond the horizon. Though, many fail to reach to promise land of wanting smiles and general acceptance.
In regards to the 700 Orange County teenagers that attempt suicide every year, the number is minuscule compared to how many conclude their time on Earth every year, every day, and every minute with their own means. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 41,149 suicides were reported in 2013. This means that every 12 minutes someone decides life has exhausted it meaning and there is nowhere left to turn but the door to the afterlife.
Every beautiful soul that is marred by such an arbiter of hate has stifled in their journey through life. Like any other person who has lived, people who suffer from the consideration of suicide only want to chase the never-setting Sun of hope, to follow their dreams, and accomplish their destiny.
Suicide is a cause of death that can be prevented. Be a friend; look out for those who are closest, for they may be suffering from something that has never been seen before and has yet to be understood. In the battle to conquer mental illness, some people are still prisoners of war in their own mind. It is impossible for one to understand what someone goes through when they suffer from a mental illness, because they have never experienced the horrifying tale of two vastly different societies.
Opinion by Alex Lemieux
Orange County Register: Suicide report: What drives O.C. teens to attempt suicide?
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Facts and Figures
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