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More than teen angst
Posted: June 2, 2009
Last Updated: June 2, 2009

According to the 2005 New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, over 26 percent of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopeless over more than two months within the year. This is a major symptom of depression and linked to suicide attempts in teens. A little over 14 percent of high school students reported attempting suicide in that same time within the last year. Each year, almost 5,000 young people between the ages 15 to 24 take their own lives. The suicide rate for this age group has nearly tripled since 1960, making it the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college-age youth. In New Mexico the suicide situation is just as serious as in the rest of the country, even given the rural nature of our state. Because of these high numbers, parents, family and friends should treat any talk of suicide by teens seriously.

Many times the moodiness of teen-agers is dismissed or excused as a ‘phase’ and part of the teen angst that comes with developing into an adult. Though teens are growing emotionally and mentally, threats of suicide should never be taken lightly by anyone. There is a cry for help by teenagers, who may not be able to deal with their overwhelming emotional states. Teens might say the following things to hint at their desperation:  


·         I shouldn’t be here.

·         I wish I were dead.

·         I'm going to kill myself.

·         I wish I could disappear forever.

·         If a person did this or that…..would he/she die?

·         The voices tell me to kill myself.

·          Maybe if I died, people would love me more.  


Studies show that suicide attempts among youth may be based on long standing problems triggered by a specific event. Suicidal teenagers may view a temporary situation as a permanent condition. The break-up of a relationship or long standing problems can feel overwhelming to anyone much less a teenager who is learning to deal with adult relationships or situations. Feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt can lead to impulsive, self-destructive acts by teenagers. Teenage males are more likely to engage in impulsive violent suicidal acts, while female teenagers are more prone to plan a suicide attempt and opt for less violent means, like overdosing on pills.


Four out of five suicidal teens display more than one of the following behavioral warning signs:

  • Suicide threats, direct and indirect
  • Obsession with death
  • Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
  • Dramatic change in personality or appearance
  • Irrational or bizarre behavior
  • Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or reflection
  • Changed eating or sleeping patterns
  • Severe drop in school performance
  • Giving away belongings

Parents should take any suicide threat seriously and seek treatment for their teenager. The most important thing for parents of teenagers is offering to listen to what a teenager has to say about their situation. Family members should encourage depressed teenagers to talk about their feelings and offer a sympathetic ear without lecturing or arguing. Parents should trust their instincts and if the situation seems serious seek prompt help. Parents should seek professional help for their teenager, even if the threat seems vague. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional that has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen’s life - family, friends and teacher should be notified of the situation.


If you know someone who is considering suicide or displaying suicide warning signs call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649 for referral; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.




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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.