Teen Depression and Suicide: Effective Prevention and Intervention Strategies
King, Keith A., Vidourek, Rebecca A., The Prevention Researcher
Despite numerous efforts and interventions, depression and suicide continue to afflict a sizeable percentage of youth each year. In the past year, 28.5% of teens were depressed and 15.8% had seriously considered attempting suicide (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2012). Depression and suicide are intricately intertwined among teens, with untreated depression being a leading cause of teen suicide. Teens experiencing depression are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than teens not experiencing depression and greater than half who complete suicide had major depression (Miller & Eckert, 2009). Because of such alarming statistics, increased attention has been devoted toward youth depression and suicide (Costello, Erkanli & Angold, 2006). The main purpose of this article is to address the extent of adolescent depression and suicide and the connection between the two. In addition, emphasis is placed on the importance of identifying warning signs and risk factors for depression and suicide among teens. Information is provided to assist professionals in educating individuals about effective prevention and intervention strategies.
WARNING SIGNS AND RISK FACTORS
Research indicates that most teens who are depressed or suicidal show warning signs and possess specific risk factors (King, 2006). The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2010) estimates that approximately 3 in 4 suicidal individuals show warning signs to a family member or friend. Among teens, approximately 9 in 10 teens who are suicidal display clues or warning signs to others (Hicks, 1990). Therefore, a key component to preventing teen depression and suicide is for professionals, parents/guardians, teachers, other supportive adults (e.g., coaches, religious youth group advisors, afterschool program leaders), and youth to remain aware of such warning signs and risk factors and to appropriately intervene when necessary. Table 4.1 highlights the common warning signs of teen depression. It is important to note that many of these warning signs are also shared signs of teen suicide.
Therefore, early detection and intervention is critical to preventing suicidal or self-harmful behaviors. Teen suicidal warning signs encompass three specific categories; 1) behavioral warning signs, 2) verbal warning signs, and 3) stressful life events (King, 2006). Behavioral warning signs include specific actions that teens may display when contemplating suicide. Verbal warning signs include specific statements or phrases that teens may provide when suicidal. Stressful life events include specific occurrences in teens' lives that result in a traumatic or upsetting experience and can lead to suicidal ideation (see Table 4.2).
TEEN DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE PREVENTION
A key component to effectively prevent teen depression and suicide is to build multiple protective factors. Feeling socially connected to others is one such protective factor that is directly associated with positive emotional health (Turner & Lloyd, 1999). Social connectedness among teens is primarily divided into three main components; 1) family connectedness, 2) school connectedness, and 3) community connectedness. The National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health found family connectedness to be the leading protective factor against teen depression and suicide, and school connectedness was the leading school-based protective factor (Resnick et al., 1997).
Family connectedness refers to warm, open, and caring relationships between parents and youth. School connectedness is comprised of warm and caring relationships to adults at school including teachers, administrators, and other staff, as well as peers (Catalano et al., 2004). Community connectedness refers to positive relationships with members of one's community and an overall feeling that one is an important and valued member of his/her community and groups within the community (e. …