Suicidality & Self-harm in Adolescents

Suicidality in Adolescents

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15-21. Bullying, substance abuse, and underlying mood disorders can compound risk during the adolescent years, and all signs and symptoms should be taken seriously, including passive statements, such as “I shouldn’t have been born.”

Although terrifying for family members, the good news is that, with appropriate treatment, most individuals who experience suicidal ideation go on to live full lives.

 

Self-harm in Adolescents

Unfortunately, self-harm is not uncommon in teenagers; it is estimated that up to 25% of teens experiment with self-injury. While for some teens it is a means of communicating needs, for others it is a source of shame, and they may go to great lengths to conceal the behavior. Although it is difficult for loved ones to understand, most teens who self-injure describe a feeling of “relief” from either intensely painful emotions, or from a feeling of numbness. This sense of relief is reinforcing for the teenager, and the longer a person engages in the behavior, the more reinforcing it becomes. Over time, a teen can come to rely on self-injury for coping with any painful emotion, creating a cycle of emotional avoidance that inhibits opportunities for learning and practicing other, more adaptive coping mechanisms.