If Your Kid Has 8 Friends, Statistically One Of Them Has Contemplated Suicide

shutterstock_66856588A national study on teenage suicide just confirms what many of us already know: adolescence can be very unkind to some kids.

Reuters reports that one in 25 American teens has attempted suicide while one in eight kids will think about ending their life. On a broader scale, that means that 12 percent of children have attempted to kill themselves while four percent have considered it. The researchers said that these findings squared with “the prevalence of lifetime suicidal thinking,” as well as suicide attempts by grownups.

The study of in-person interviews with nearly 6,500 teens doesn’t seem to reveal anything that researchers weren’t already aware of:

“What adults say is, the highest risk time for first starting to think about suicide is in adolescence,” said Matthew Nock, a psychologist who worked on the study at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The study, which included questionnaires by parents, determined that almost all suicidal kids had either a mental disorder (depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD) or drug/alcohol problems. But more alarmingly, over half of them were also receiving treatment:

“We know that a lot of the kids who are at risk and thinking about suicide are getting (treatment),” he told Reuters Health. However, “We don’t know how to stop them – we don’t have any evidence-based treatments for suicidal behavior.”

While Amy Brausch, a psychologist, says that the findings don’t necessarily mean that the treatment is ineffective, the researchers maintain “a lot of current methods” are not stopping suicidal behavior.

America is quite the dangerous place to grow up anyway. But suicide is the reported third leading cause of death for kids as young as 10 years old — taking 4,600 young people from us every year. Even one a year would be far too many.

(photo: Maxx-Studio / Shutterstock)

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  • bumbler

    I don’t agree with your interpretation of the data. My partner has to give kids these kinds of polls, and many of them who check “yes, I have contemplated suicide” mean that they have thought about it philosophically or thought about an incident where someone they know or saw on TV committed suicide. They are usually VERY embarrassed and alarmed when he has to (by law) confront them about it. This doesn’t mean kids don’t think about killing themselves, but I am doubtful of these numbers. Even if the number is more like 1% of kids, it’s still a problem, but I wouldn’t want people reacting to false or exaggerated information.

  • somethingobscure

    Ok this is a really important thing to report on, and I’m glad to see it here, but your assumption in the title is just plain false! Yes, stats will show a number that translates to 1 in 8. But that doesn’t mean every single group of 8 kids contains 1 who has contemplated suicide. People who don’t know much about statistics assume all sorts of things about the implications of various findings, and it is really irresponsible journalism. Let’s not discount the fact that isolation — i.e. lack of friends — is a risk factor for depression/suicidality so people who have a group of 8 friends are probably less likely to fall into that category to begin with, but the rates will be higher or lower in a group based on a bunch of different features — poverty, homosexuality, abuse, etc. Any given group of 8 kids is not necessarily just like every other group of 8 kids, so, please, stop sensationalizing research with inappropriate assumptions and claiming it’s all about the “statistics”. Statistical research and statistical interpretation are best left to researchers and statisticians. Just report the actual findings, they’re chilling enough as it is!

    BTW — I was an RA in Matthew Nock’s psych lab in 2009. He is a brilliant researcher and instilled a very strong preference for precision and responsible reporting in me when it comes to statistical analysis.

  • http://www.suicidalchristians.com/ Nita Tarr

    We need to shatter the taboo of suicide so that people feel they can be open about their feelings.