Let's Talk about 13 Reasons Why and Teen Suicide

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Suicide has been called a national epidemic. Whether you agree or not we can all identify that suicides are increasing in frequency and visibility. It is currently the third leading cause of death among people ages 10-24 according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with numbers increasing fastest in girls between the ages of 10 and 14. They may not make up a large segment of people who complete suicide but suicides in this age range are becoming more frequent even tripling over the past 15 years. In our state, California, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death overall and is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 and 34.

Suicide rates were decreasing after 1989 then made an about face and rose by a quarter between 1999 and 2014. You have to wonder why, in the last 15 years have we begun seeing changes in suicide, particularly among the young? There is obviously no one phenomena to pin this change on but changes in socialization may be partly implicated. When we look at the evolutionary purpose of socialization we see that we have socialized for millions of years with the intent of increasing our chances of survival. We evolved to need physical contact to release oxytocin, eye contact to indicate attention, and groups to assure safety. At a time when technology is pushing socialization faster than we can evolve it may be impacting how we feel. The University of Pittsburgh even conducted a study focused on how long hours on Facebook can impact levels of depression and lead to jealous feelings.

If that’s not enough to keep you up at night there are also neurological reasons why adolescents may be experiencing the distress they report. Partly, the frontal-limbic system; this system is the connection between the limbic system, emotional center of the brain, and the frontal lobe, the problem-solving center. These two areas of the brain work hand in hand to help us experience, process and come up with solutions to situations we experience even very emotionally triggering ones. The issue is that this brain region begins developing in late childhood and is not fully complete until the mid to late 20’s. Studies have also shown that some people who attempt suicide have less density in white matter and decreased activity in these brain areas. Possibly leading to difficulties generating alternate solutions, increased emotional pain, and acting on impulses. I know when I was an adolescent break-ups seemed bleaker and arguments more dyer. Whereas now I am able to take stock of the good, the bad and the ugly of a situation and most often identify that I'm better off without the toxic relationship anyway.

What are the Symptoms?