Every 40 seconds, another human life is taken by suicide, according to World Health Organization data.
Today it seems as though the threat of suicide is affecting individuals in society younger and younger. Cases have even been documented in children as young as five years old.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people between the ages of 10 and 24, resulting in about 4,600 lives lost in the U.S. each year According to the American College Health Association (ACHA) the suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s.
As a result, recently there has been more of a shift and call to action for society to focus on mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, especially in the younger generation. Mental illness, social media, and bullying and some factors that have been linked to the trend of suicide increase in this age group.
Suicide rates for teens increased between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, research presented at the May 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco shows that the number of children and adolescents admitted to children's hospitals for thoughts of suicide or self-harm more than doubled during the last decade.
“Teens are much more likely now than they were just five years ago, or seven years ago, to say that they are anxious and depressed and thinking about suicide," Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, told CBS Evening News.
One theory behind this alarming trend is the correlation between social media and the increase in young suicides. Social media is something that we’ve seen take over the internet over the past servers years. People can hide behind their screens and keyboards and cyber bully or harass others, sometimes to the point to where they feel the only solution is to take their own life.
“The prevalence of social media may also play a part," Gregory Plemmons, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the new study’s first author, told NBC News. “We know that anxiety and depression are increasing in young adults as well as adults. I think some people have theorized it’s social media maybe playing a role, that kids don’t feel as connected as they used to be.”
Twenge, indicates a correlation between the popularity of smartphones and the increased rates of suicide and depression among young people.
"Teens who use electronic devices more hours a day are more likely to be a risk for suicide. The so-called smartphone generation is less likely to have face-to-face interaction with friends, which she says is crucial to mental health and building social skills,” he said.
Social media also creates a new avenue for bullying and harassment that did not exist in the past. Cyberbullying gives people the opportunity to hide behind a screen and not have to face the direct consequences of things they say or do online. Cyberbullying has been a prevalent factor in the increase in teen and pre-teen suicides. This is something that previous generations have not had to deal with since smartphones are a relatively new introduction to society.
A 9-year-old Colorado boy, Jamel Myles was a fourth grader who committed suicide this summer after being bullied at school after announcing over the summer that he was gay and expressing his desire to share the news with his classmates, his mother said. There have been several incidents like that story, and it seems like the ages of those committing suicide are getting younger and younger. Those who area part of the LGBTQ unity statistically have higher chances of committing suicide.
Additionally, suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students. Many college students struggle with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and mental illness overall.
The American College Health Association reported that 46% of college students report feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function at least once during the year, and 10% of college students seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
There has also been a 56% increase in the number of college students reporting depression symptoms in the past six years. Twenty-three percent of students who committed suicide were treated at student counseling centers.
Senior forensic science student Nikia Mitchell said, “A couple of years back I struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression because I was at a very low point in my life. Now, I’m healthier and on a much better path but I feel like it’s hard for students, especially in the black community to be open about mental health issues their facing. Often times it’s brushed aside and overlooked rather than taken serious.”
National suicide awareness and prevention month is in September, and this year many Savannah State University students took the hashtag to share their personal stories and struggles. Several people said that they were unaware that so many students and members of our community were affected by suicide and mental illness.
If you or someone you know are struggling or in crisis, you are not alone. Call 1-800-273-TALK for help or more information.