Preventing Teenage Suicides: What Are The Risk Factors?


In the last decade or so, cases of teenage suicide have been on the rise. According to statistical data published by World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is the second leading cause of death in young adults between 15- 29 years. More often than not, we hear heartbreaking stories of cases where teens have taken their lives; the bereaved families unable to explain their loved one’s actions. After all teen years are for meant for fun and self-discovery.

A superficial look into this teenage suicides is likely to yield little or no fruit. However, an in depth look at the situation can help us better understand what is ailing our young adults. The Human Rights Audit on Mental Disorder stated that many children and adolescents experience mental disorders ranging from psychological to emotional or behavioural disorders. These disorders if not attended to can be a quick ticket to the grave.

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These mental conditions are hard to diagnose due to a stubborn and persistent mindset that has infected many of us. Africans are yet to come to terms with the existence of certain mental illnesses. These illnesses are often regarded to as ‘the white man’s disease’. This attitude and misinformation has contributed to ignoring of conditions like schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, depression and bipolar disorders which often manifest in the stages of adolescence. These conditions coupled with the environment we have raised our teens in has led to the start of a chain reaction leading to numerous teenage suicides. Some of these environmental factors include;

  1. Unrealistic Expectations

Academic expectations heaped on teens by their parents can sometimes mount excessive pressure to attain certain goals in school. If left unchecked, this pursuit of parental approval can cause pressure to break often plunging the child into a state of depression which can lead to suicide. Encouragement of children to succeed is an important part of parenting. It is, however, best to gauge a child with realistic goals and watch them grow from that point. How To Cope With Depression

  1. Bullying

Physical bullying has quickly accelerated to emotional bullying. The adverse effects of emotional bullying have seen many teens pushed to the brink of suicide. The social media era has been an accelerant to the already problematic issue of self-esteem. Nowadays children rarely shy away from parading their lives on social media. They hover around various social media platforms indirectly seeking approval from their age mates. They open themselves up to judgement and criticism they may not be equipped to handle. This takes a toll on their emotional welfare bringing to life underlying mental issues that may be the beginning of the end. How Parents Can Identify That Their Child Is Being Bullied & Take Action


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  1. External Influences

Other technological aspects that we are yet to fully understand have also played a part in taking these young lives from us. Earlier this year there was a report of a 15-year-old boy that had committed suicide when he partook in the Blue Whale game whose last level involved taking one one’s life. It is bizarre things like this that prompt parents or relatives to keep abreast with their children’s online activities. Social factors also come into the equation with teenagers engaging in drug abuse.

  1. Relationships

Teens are increasingly involving themselves in sexual relationships without a clear understanding of the responsibilities and consequences that come with such commitments. Often these relationships may not end well because of lack of adequate emotional maturity. Sometimes they also end in tragedy like the case of two teen lovers from Marakwet who committed suicide after the girl found out she was pregnant.

Josephine Omondi, a child/adolescent psychiatrist, carried out research on the key indicators of clinical depression. In her presentation, she highlighted issues she felt that parents should keep an eye out for in their children. They include; sudden withdrawal from reality, continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness, changes in appetite, loss of interest in things that your child would normally enjoy doing and self-neglect. The manifestation of any of these traits in your child should be dealt with sooner rather than later. Here is an article by New York times that is helpful – Preventing Teen Suicide: What the Evidence Shows and another by Child Mind Institute Teen Suicides: What Are the Risk Factors?

Parents should endeavour to build solid relationships with their children. Some of these issues can be spotted and managed before they spiral out of control. All you have to do as a parent is create a safe space by assuring your children that no matter what they may be going through, you are a shoulder they can lean on.  If you notice something is amiss there should be no shame in getting professional help. The mental health of our children is as important as their physical health when it comes to raising an all rounded member of society.

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