Listen: Adolescent Suicide

A desperate act, a scream for attention, a cry for help: a discussion on adolescent suicide. Connie Goldman interviews members of the staff of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center and youth counselors from the Center for Death Education and Research at the University of Minnesota.

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

Well it the thing that mostly that's mostly surprised me and alarms me is the acceptance of death as a choice that the I'm always startled. It's ago so much against my own green personal life. And I think it's a social ethic that the many more young people and I would like to see what accept the death of a friend someone else's that's his thing to do. It seems to be a kind of a Detachment in relationships. Which puzzles me and alarms me adolescent suicide a subject of great concern when I did try I really had no concept actually with suicide was all I knew was that I had trouble surviving anywhere across the board and by increase, I mean like doubled and tripled in the last five years to go and couldn't relate to anything anymore most the time. It's a call. That's a cry the Clarion call for acknowledge me. I need affection attention. I need something. I mean, I knew I was going to die, but there was no reason to life. It wasn't much different. Cancer causes if you can't do anything about that's a tragic event in itself, but the have someone died by his own hand just seems so unnecessary. So incomplete life, he didn't have a chance to buy adolescent suicide A desperate act a scream for attention Cry for Help. What should we know? What can we do? All I wanted to do was leave who is it? It was just it was precious anxiety. There's nowhere to feel good. And there's nowhere to know as an exist and it was like death wasn't just dumb responsible thing. I can't face it and then we'll leave it was another place to go. It was a way to get the hell out of there. And when I do that took a bunch of sleeping pills, But they weren't prescription and they really had no effect on me. That was only time I've ever tried suicide and I had to go away. Let's step back one minute first and take a look at the the Adolescent suicides in the youth suicides and see why it is that we're so very much concerned with it right now it is because within our country there is strong evidence that there has been a tremendous increase in the number. And therefore the rate of suicides that have been occurring among the younger ages. The curve of suicide has been low in the younger ages has increased gradually throughout the Middle Ages and then taking that precipitous rise in the older ages saying 65 or 70 and holder. It has almost always been lowest in the younger age group. Now we have found two are distressing that can sit it seems that it that a suicide among the younger ages some Paulo weather. Strike says as a more regrettable more distressing more unhappy than a suicide Branson. The older ages the the rate of the suicides among the younger age group has increased remarkably so much so that the form of the curve has begun to change for males you find that the rate begin this one decade between 1960 and 1970 has increased between 2 and 1/2 to 3 times and that's fantastic. I'm out but it's even more striking if we look at the females and the way in which their rates have changed over this past decade now, they're rate the females rate between 1960 and 1970 has jumped to 8.0 for the below 20 age group. 8.0. I know that's 200 times. The rate that it was 10 years ago. Don't was really bad then my stepfather. He was a how I think you was crazy, but he used to beat my mother up and beat me up and stuff like that and I would just take it out on everybody else cuz I was free to take it out on him and then I was afraid to get out of my mother and my brothers were too small. So and said take you and everybody else had ties try to kill myself and get my anger out on me. When I was little I was some that's the only time I really considered it seriously just cuz the problems I had in us all depressed about school and thanks when you say little how young were you must have been? And I think I hate. And his I wanted to do it because school starting and then I was upset about that. Problems with my friends or something. I can't remember exactly. I wanted to I wanted to cut myself and just died from bleeding to death cuz I had Ransom. I think that that wasn't painful and I found out it was painful. So I never tried again. You think it's unusual for a nine-year-old to think about suicide. Are you frightened because you had such violent thoughts. What did you say, but I just heard that I cut myself by accident. That's all I didn't I didn't really want to say I am not after you interviewed Nat talk to him about it now. And I told him that you're going to interview me and I told him you know, why cuz I admitted that I had tried before to commit suicide that was just last week then and they didn't know all these years. How old are you now sister, right? Well, the last time that I tried my mother had told me that she was going to call the police on him because I had start another argument everything. She don't want me around there and then everything started hitting me and wants to know how I feel about myself then and what was going to happen to me. And if I was going to start going back to girls homes and stuff all over again. I didn't really want that. And so I just thought well maybe if I kill myself that I wouldn't have to worry about anything anymore. So I just went upstairs and I was kind of scared to do it but yet I was determined to do it then and that's my mother's next time. She seemed to be in my grave and then I went upstairs and I took 22 sleeping pills. I do feel among kids there seems to be more depression. There's a lot less seeming Joy. There's less laughter. There's not much the joking around is pretty cynical, but I seem to hear much less Joy much more trying to get away from stuff by going on getting stoned or drunk or or or cynically laughing at the world and saying to hell with it and a lot of depression as a consequence in part of some of that he's suffering for quite a few years and it wasn't it wasn't hidden and Medhelp teaches call my mother advised Iran attack come get her and her staff retention and but there were serious things and my parents weren't about to help me and I mean it took me many years to get a psychiatrist will my mother find out she was just so ashamed and she was bawling and it was a secret and I was excited his, anyting nothing's going to get any better. And so therefore why not commit suicide that seems to be one thing as a set, I don't know how much it's felt. The other thing is that anger thing is if I if I the only way that maybe people will acknowledge me. Is if I kill myself will notice me then don't cry for me then and also I'll punish the people who have not responded to me. So there is some of that in the suicide isn't and the words. I don't think is very purest, you know, the rational reasons are not the reasons for suicide and the rational reasons are that it's a meaningless World. Nothing's going to go right for me. There's no hope every I'm so screwed up my head such a mess. Those are some of the rational thing supposedly rational things are said for suicide, but you have a sense whenever you're dealing with it that it is punishment of someone else. It's saying acknowledge me world. I know. I'm I'm not a zero it's saying I just don't think I have the energy or the ability to make things any better for myself and it's really hard to get at what is going on in a suicide because it is an emotional thing has been transferred into a rational reason. To the fact I was going to die. I mean, I knew I was going to die but there was no real life. It wasn't much different General in school settings is that the ones who tend to kill themselves while depressed and suicidal don't make trouble and don't come to attention of authorities schools. Like you seeing Elementary School all the kids we get the attention of the acting up kids make a lot of noise and trouble but you don't see that with a suicidal kids be quiet in there classes at work goes along well and they seem to be rather adjusted in school, except they might be quieter. You just don't hear from them see the different with the girls the girls who are suicidal 10 to be more Trouble Over Troubled they come to the attention of school counselors, but the kids are depressed and withdrawn. You know, you're glad they're not making trouble is with the school attitude respect. Those are the kids commit suicide. They just have to sit down and talk to the kid. They have to try to understand that. I don't I can't exactly say how they can just understand them teachers are often forced to deal with his they have to deal with the book. You just tore up or the kids. You just hit are there fire you just lit in the cloakroom. They deal with those things and they don't deal with often with what's behind making the kid do that. That's right the teachers in public schools. I'd say that they wouldn't really have enough time or they wouldn't want to take the time to talk to kids about their problems. They I don't think they even realize that I was just Jared inside her they they try to crank problems by just by making it pay for the bunker. Are punishment or something but they wouldn't really want to take that time and that that's a mistake. I think most of what I see in in at least attempted suicide or the statements about suicide and the ones I'm most worried about it those that don't talk about it. They go out and do it and those ones that scare me the most but the ones that I hear talking about they mainly am I depressed situations and the depression is indicative of anger and suicide to me is indicative of anger quite often and otherwise suicide isn't just sadness and loneliness it alone with kids at least that I see underneath that is a lot of anger anger at people not caring about them anger at them not finding any meeting and so almost always one of the things that I end up dealing with with the kid who is depressed or suicidal is lot of anger. They're carrying and it has become self anger. Pain of the depression in the loneliness is that the reason was because they couldn't they couldn't take it anymore and I didn't want to feel like I don't understand the bad feelings for loneliness to hurt The Emptiness the hatred hatred of home of depression and gets pain down is the use of drugs alcohol as an increase in usage by kids right now and it's a good way to avoid some of your bad feelings and it's a good way to to ease some pain and so are drugs but so are the dependencies are all kinds of dependencies. And as you look at 2, that's what's happening to kill some of the reasons that that some kids will get very heavily into drugs. He has because of depression there other reasons, but I mean, that's one of the reasons Did you ever go through a suicide crisis such as you deal with here? Yeah. About them 5 years ago. When I was a senior in college. Felt totally like you know, the whole thing that's been wasted. I was looking for a job confine anyting felt cut off and feel I had anybody to turn to help me out got pretty close course. It didn't help to you. I was tripping on acid when it happened. And so I had to be you know, how much it was a drug how much that was me but I just had nowhere to turn to I had nobody that I feel I feel like I could talk to and it would have been helpful to have somebody at least recognize the fact that I had that much pain and it was it was pretty rough. I got a ulcers and you know, I was working through my co thing everything was up in the I didn't know what was going to happen, but it was a support through a couple of individuals like sort of helped me through that. I suspect that some of the drugs that they do bring out. Are they knock out a lot of Defense systems? Do tend to bring out and remind feelings about the self and if there's a lot of garbage floating around, you know, I can 5 got her a poor self-esteem R. I don't think much of my body or I'm think I'm pretty worthless. I cover that up normally, but if I'm tripping I lose those defenses and so I'm exposed to that kind of, you know, kind of rotten material in me. And it comes up to the surface and it bums me out. That's the bad trip to the Freak Out the bummer and some of that I suspect some of that kind of phenomenon does encourage suicide all kinds of thinking depression in case my suicide attempts the dog to the drug stone for the hallucinogens. Don't cause a depression or the poor self-esteem are the feeling on productivity, but they do knock out the defenses that a person directs against looking at those things. But then when you found someone to talk to the next door neighbor, then things got better back talk to somebody and feel like I wanted or feel it's in early summer kind of Sammy. Then I don't feel that bad. First of all very difficult to talk about. Drugs is a hole in relation to suicide because some have virtually none and and Other Drugs have probably quite a Hyatt relationship. For example, the barbiturate sleeping pills tranquilizers. Are the drug of choice for someone committing suicide and there's kind of a vicious circle here often a young person will be kind of depressed or or maybe hyperactive or have some kind of psychological kind of problems and she goes to a shrink or he goes to a shrink. And gets some sedatives some tranquilizers prescribed to Mellow that person out and the person gets depressed for some other reason they lose their boyfriend or get fired or whatever. and they've got a big bottle of pills and they've got 75 second almost a hundred milligram second or so, they use those pills that have been prescribed initially for their mental health to do themselves in A phenomenon that I ran into more often than the than the total suicide attempt. The serious suicide attempt was the the scare kind of phenomenon where you have the 17 18 year old person perhaps not very attractive Lonely no friends or self-image. Nobody cares about them. They take 10 pills and suddenly they noticed it when they take 10 down. There's a whole bunch of people start caring about I mean the local drop-in center people start responding and the international sits with him in the waiting room and they get an appointment with a counselor who they see free once a week and he or she's a pretty neat person, you know, there's kind of a learned behavior that goes on that says hey, you know, it's not until I really almost kill myself and I start getting affection attention love caring conversation with need people when I'm well When I'm straight, I'm alone. When I'm almost ready to kill myself, but that attracts attention. There's a magnetic quality to that and I'll just need people around me. That's what I want. I saw an awful lot particular with adolescent girls, 17 18 19 and being responded to buy all the different kinds of males who were in The you know, the helping kinds of professions all the way from Mike the street agencies in the hip young guys with the medical professions or the the interns at the hospital's the counselors that they can get in to see free the groups. They get to be in meet people lyrics what do you think you wanted without being rejected? I wanted help around so you have prescription drugs around your house then to keep you on an even to you. I think around 7. It's a guess. I was just sit down and think it out but I figure out out of all these operations. You know, you're going to get pain pills for it and I don't usually take him when I need him after my last overdose. The longest time. I save some pills I took I don't know $1,600 something and he told me it would work. Well, then I get scared. See that's why I know I would really don't want to kill myself people tend to say rather good lyrics to drug culture kids are into drugs. I'm not sure that's so we don't know if it's the drug people would kill yourself. It might be the striving for college kids telling me sounds of the kids were trying to work and get their lives moving quickly. We tried to do all the right things. You really don't know that the vast majority Jones receiving money to those that kill themselves are not trying to die. That's not their goal. Their goal was to somehow escape from the pain they're feeling and they seen suicide as an alternative but they could accept another alternative if somebody were able to present him with it. I think the important point is that a person is going to be an expert to to help a suicidal adolescent. What he needs to do is first not be afraid that he's going to have an ornate demands made upon him or he's going to be some way responsible for this person's death number to learn to listen. And it's incredible how a person who knows very little about suicide or Nosler a little about adolescence and can even be rather opinionated who can sit there and listen for a half hour and maybe ask a few questions and not stick his nose in and give his you know, little homilies that come from his grandfather from the Bible or from dr. Spock or whatever. I just sit and listen in a concern way and do an awful lot of good an awful awful lot of good really be a valuable. I'm talking about a wait time at adult or a pier or anyone is it really doesn't make any difference as long as the person can sit patiently and listen. What happens too often and with chases the suicidal child away at lessons away is the person says I feel depressed and unhappy and I don't know why I just don't know how I can go on and sometimes you know, I feel like suicide and whether we talking about a professional or a Layman if his reaction is now you're you're young and you're attractive and you have so much to live for that's it. It's over because the youngsters reaction is how can you say that he doesn't know what's in my head. He doesn't know what I feel on the other hand if you listen if you take it in if you sit there for an hour and really listen and then can respond honestly and say Boy, you know, you really are a lot of pain and I could sure I understand, you know feeling that way that you might have some questions about the what do you want to live or die that did that make sense you in such a pain, but you know once you once you establish the fact that you can appreciate Person feels a little harmaleighs or whatever you have to say has a lot makes a lot more sense. But that way and be afraid to see the pain. Well, you know, I can I can tell you that that by doing it and I abrupt way we we often have a chance that were doing something we're being wise. We're being counselors in some way and we're giving this person advice and if only has the sense to follow up, but even more importantly we're saving ourselves the pain of having to sit there and listen to this awful awful painful story because I think people have sat and listened to the stories get caught up in it and start feeling the hurt themselves and start feeling depressed themselves and Afraid themselves and sometimes even afraid that they'll wind up saying G. I don't know. What do you know what to tell you it sounds pretty hopeless and then feeling like a real failure may be one reason that the promising horses were looking at the finally they're out from under the beds and under the pillows and under everything that work were obviously looking at problems in a society doing that things look worse for wear. I think that's better. I really think it's favorable if it's a size like his promise release clearly. I'm not sure we're not doing a lot of denial yet. But the more we can look at problems the worse it will get for a while and yet in the long run. That's what what will it at least accommodate some problems. There are more people than ever that are trained to work with people as far as I can see and that to me is helpful there more kids who are in their late teens and twenties who are really good at relating to anybody till three others who have gotten training and all kinds of places and all kinds of ways and really care about relationships and do it working with people and I don't think I've ever seen this in a society wouldn't when I was younger. I don't think there were places you could go with with younger or older people are understanding and caring no deal with it and I see more and more agencies and more and more people who are aware of this and willing to deal with it. And and yeah, that part is optimistic for me. I need the ID of of obviously looking at our problems. And scraping out the horror of the man in and getting it cuz until we do they will stay underground be worse. I think but you know when you examine it does get depressing. I keep thinking. Well, that would be the way to end it but I would never choose. What I do is what I've done as I called Siri to talk to me or but she is very doubtful her when he's not there is always Suicide Prevention or actually it's not the someone to stop from me from killing myself cuz I doubt I would this is someone to talk to me and let me know that there cuz that's the most frightening thing was so you don't know someone's there is you're more comfortable being you whatever you are and doing your own thing. Do the suicide thoughts go away. I feel stronger. I get extremely extremely excited about all about living and it actually when I do go backwards, even though at a given time, they'll feel intense the never long and there and they're never as strong as it used to be even though each time. It feels like it's never been this bad before ever. But you know that you can find ways to cope with living instead of dying right even as frightened as I get I know what Adolescent and youth suicide a tragic reality of our time A desperate act a scream for attention a cry for help increase across the board and by increase I mean like doubled and tripled in The Last 5 Years. To anything anymore most the time it's a call. That's a cry at the Clarion call for acknowledge me. I need affection attention. I need something, I really didn't consider the fact I was going to die. I mean, I knew I was going to die, but there was no real life. It wasn't much different. Cancer of causes if you can't do anything about that's a tragic event in itself, but to have someone die by his own hand just seems so unnecessary. So incomplete life even have a chance at life material in this report and Adolescent suicide was contributed by members of the staff of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center, Dr. Norman farberow. Dr. Michael Peck and Sam heilig help us obtain from youth counselors working in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area can Fletcher micro Jim Kertson and Sue Kramer additional material through the center for Deaf Education and Research at the University of Minnesota. Bonnie Carmen Pat and Ted were the teenage voices for National Public Radio. This is Connie Goldman in St. Paul, Minnesota.


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