Increased Abuse Raises Risk of Suicidal Thoughts in Teens

Suicide was the third leading cause of death for Black men ages 15 to 24.

Posted: 10/31/2012 01:51 PM EDT
Increased Abuse Raises Risk of Suicidal Thoughts in Teens

We should be concerned about the state of mental health among young people.

And while we are slowly becoming more aware of the impact that bullying has on young people, a new study highlights that it’s a spectrum of abuse and harassment — not just bullying — that is behind this disturbing trend.

Researchers from the University of New Hampshire analyzed data from the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence and found that the more areas that young people are victimized — sexual abuse, emotional abuse, bullying and physical abuse — and the more recent the abuse was, the more likely that young people were contemplating suicide. Of the 1,800 participants, 4.3 percent of them had suicidal thoughts within 30 days of being interviewed.

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, in 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. And while that’s a general stat, don’t think that this isn’t an African-American issue.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among African-American males between ages 15 and 24. A 2009 study found that African-American and Caribbean young girls are more likely to think about suicide than their male counterparts.

Researchers state that young people who were victims of bullying in the past 12 months are 2.5 times more likely to think about committing suicide, compared to young people who are not being bullied.

Young people who had been sexually assaulted were 3.4 times more likely to think about suicide.

Youth who experienced emotional abuse by their families were 4.4 times more likely. And those who experienced seven or more types of victimization in the past year were six times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

"Exposure to multiple forms of victimization is especially detrimental,” the study’s author Dr. Heather Turner, told HealthDay. "These kids may be exposed to crime and violence at home by witnessing their parents fighting and other types of domestic violence, and they may witness violence in their neighborhoods and be bullied on the Internet. These are kids that are clearly experiencing a huge amount of adversity in multiple areas of their lives."

Researchers say that in order to truly and successfully address suicide prevention in this country, there needs to be a better understanding of the threats of violence that young people face at home, at school and in their neighborhoods, Science Daily News reported. Family structure and support make huge differences when it comes to prevention. The Los Angeles Times wrote:

The study makes clear in myriad ways that family support is a bulwark against youth suicide when an adolescent is being bullied by peers. When parents contribute to an adolescent's sense of victimization, the authors suggest, hopelessness is far likelier to take hold, and suicidal thinking likely follows.

The takeaway here is that teens shouldn’t go through this alone.

Learn more about suicide, its warning signs and prevention here.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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