Study: 1 of 8 teens thinks of suicide

Quite often, the message conveyed in suicide prevention is that if you ask for help, things will get better.

That’s not always the case, however.

A study released this week shows more than half of the young people who planned, thought of, or attempted to kill themselves had received at least some treatment. Nearly 1,400 between the ages of 13 and 18 took their own life in 2010.

How is this possible? Timothy Lineberry of the Mayo Clinic had the answer on PBS NewsHour last evening:


You know, as we think about suicide, one of the things to keep in mind is that it’s not a binary phenomenon, where it’s yes or no, that you either are suicidal or you are not suicidal.

So we see changes in terms of how people are thinking about suicide, where they’re acting or planning suicide based on the severity of illness. So, what we need to look at doing is, what are the factors associated in clinical treatment as we’re going that are either signs of treatment or acting more aggressively or assertively when a child or — a child or an adolescent or a parent is reporting that there’s concerns with worsening system symptoms or the initiation of thoughts of suicide?

One of the things about this study that is remarkable is the degree of thoughts of suicide associated with attempts vs. just thoughts of suicide and then thinking about planning for suicide and then subsequent attempts.

Another doctor said the study reveals that reducing symptoms of depression doesn’t mean that thoughts of suicide will drop as well.

That’s a scary revelation.

Watch Study Shows Many Teens at Risk for Suicidal Behavior on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Brian Daly, a psychologist, also noted an important myth:


And there’s a myth in society that if you bring up the topic of suicide with teenagers, that they’re more likely to act on those impulses, when in fact we know the opposite is true, that parents, peers and teachers, when they bring up this notion with teenagers, it shows care and concern and it actually helps decrease some suicidal ideation.