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While females attempt suicide more often than males, at a rate of 4:1, males "succeed" more often, at the same rate (SUICIDE AMONG SCHOOL AGE YOUTH, l984). The rising rate has been explained as a reaction to the stress inherent in adolescence compounded by increasing stress in the environment.
Our achievement-oriented, highly competitive society puts pressure on teens to succeed, often forcing them to set unrealistically high personal expectations.
There is increased pressure to stay in school, where success is narrowly defined and difficult to achieve.
Awareness of the existing state of the world, now threatened by sophisticated methods of destruction, can cause depression which contributes to the adolescent's sense of frustration, helplessness, and hopelessness (Smith, 1979).
Faced with these feelings and lacking coping mechanisms, adolescents can become overwhelmed and turn to escapist measures such as drugs, withdrawal, and ultimately suicide.
Yet society alienates adolescents from their new identity by not allowing them the rights and responsibilities of adulthood.
They are no longer children, but they are not accorded the adult privileges of expressing their sexuality or holding a place in the work force.
Some signals should come through loud and clear: the teenager may express a desire to die, threaten to commit suicide, or inform friends of a plan. Offer yourself as a caring listener until professional help can be arranged. Try to evaluate the seriousness of the risk, in order to make the appropriate referral to a health care professional, counselor, or concerned teacher. In a counseling situation, a contract can be an effective prevention technique.
Self-abusive acts such as cutting off hair and self-inflicting cigarette burns are obvious suicidal gestures. Ask direct questions, such as, "Have you been thinking of killing yourself? The adolescent signs a card which states that he or she agrees not to take the final step of suicide while interacting with the counselor (Ray 1983).
The teen may develop a preoccupation with death and dying, make arrangements to give away prized possessions, withdraw from therapeutic help, or rapidly lose interest in once-valued activities and objects. " Don't be afraid that you will be suggesting something the adolescent has not yet considered; usually your mentioning the topic is a relief. Once past the crisis, follow-up is crucial, because most suicides occur within three months of the beginning of improvement, when the youth has the energy to carry out plans conceived earlier.