Depression and Teen Suicide

The Devastation of Teen Suicide (credit: Public Domain)
Since January 2009, coroner's records show that five young people in the Comox Valley have committed suicide.  I just picked these brief radio interviews on Twitter between the interviewer, Randy Kilburn, at the local JetFM station in Courtenay and Comox Valley teenagers Ashley Anness and Courtenay Ledger. Ashely and others are committed to drawing attention to this devastating situation among their peers.

The loss of these young lives in our Comox Valley community is tragic.  My heart goes out to all the grieving families, teachers, and friends.

There are a number of possible reasons why a young person would take their life.  Dr. Nedley's extensive research into depression discussed in his book Depression: The Way Out shows that depression diseases, including major depression, is present in 35% of all suicides (cited from Am J Public Health 1999 Sep;89(9):1384-1389).  That is a highly significant connection.  The more depression involved, the greater the risk.

 I know, I know... it seems self-evident.  But the fact remains that there are a lot of young people (and seniors are the next group most apt to kill themselves) who are depressed, often without knowing it themselves, and without showing up as depressed to those close to them.  We have come to view that moody, who-cares attitude as typical of adolescents at a certain "stage".   And while there is a certain amount of stress and responses to hormonal flux that can in fact create what looks like mild depression, there are also a lot of lifestyle choices that can produce in an individual, teenaged or elderly, a much sunnier outlook and greater confidence and emotional resilience.

While I agree that it is important to have loving, supportive (and caring professional) people to talk to when you are a young person (particularly if you are troubled, bullied, and/or dealing with other major trauma), that alone doesn't prevent depression or suicide.  Here is the RISK FACTORS list that Dr. Nedley shares in his book (page 12):
  • Male Gender
  • Various Mental Illnesses
  • Alcohol or Drug Abuse
  • Prior Suicide Attempts
  • Family History of Suicide
  • Refusal to Seek Help
  • Stressful Life Event
  • Serious Physical Illness
  • Anniversary of Loss
  • Withdrawal
  • Homosexuality
  • Heavy Metal Music
  • Body Image disorder
  • Access to Lethal Methods such as Gun
Identifying depression and finding out what is causing it, and then adequately treating it, will definitely save millions of young lives.  A treatment program that involves only psychotherapy, or only antidepressants, is not likely going to be sufficient in turning people's lives around.  Many forms of "talk therapy" have been shown to be no more effective in preventing suicide than a placebo, and some antidepressants act on some individuals to produce side effects such as depression, impulsivity and suicide ideation.

It is sobering to know that up to 14% of American youth have attempted suicide (Prim Care 1998 Mar;25(1):181-192).  While young women are more apt to be depressed, young men are more apt to follow through with suicides.  Nearly 2/3 of adolescents who are depressed will experience depression in their adult years.  Family history of depression (and suicide) is often a marker for depression (and suicide) among adolescents.

Along with a caring community, effective psychotherapy, and medical intervention, depressed individuals are most significantly helped with a comprehensive lifestyle make-over.  Dr. Nedley's Depression Recovery Program is recognized to have helped hundreds of people overcome depression and commit to leading healthier, stable and productive lives.  Contact us, or look at this calendar, to see if there is program in your area. 

**Most of the statistical information in this article is derived from Dr. Nedley's excellent text,  Depression: The Way Out copyrite 2011, Nedley Publishing.

**Please see your professional health caregiver for any questions, concerns or issues related to depression and your general health.

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Turn off the news. Throw away the newspaper. Get outside and go for a walk. Dr. Christiane Northrup said going for a walk is a perfectly acceptable form of treatment for certain types of depression!