SINN: Teen suicide an alarming social problem

Jul 24, 2012


As an American teenager in 2011, I did what plenty of 18-year-olds do after high school. In late August, I moved into a college dorm at Grand Valley State University in Allendale. I met my roommate and embarked on what was the greatest adventure of my life — filled with learning and laughter; and above all other things, hard work.

In my freshman year, I met wonderful people, learned from passionate and inspiring teachers, and managed my own schedule without the advisement of my parents. There were a lot of days when I was doubtful that I could handle the pressure of classwork and all of my other involvements, but I surrounded myself with strong, supportive friends who helped me through the tougher times.

I’m headed back to Grand Valley in the fall to pursue a degree in journalism. But over the course of my relative success story as an independent college student, many people in my age group have lost their lives to a unique kind of tragedy, one that is not easy to understand, and even harder to accept.

In February, my college roommate, Evan, lost a friend to suicide. The kid was our age. His friends who I knew personally at Grand Valley were in disbelief and had a difficult time coming to terms with what had happened.

I received a similar bit of news earlier this summer. In mid-June, another friend of mine, Travis, with whom I lived in the dorms at GVSU, called me up after leaving the funeral of a friend who had taken his own life on the morning of his high school graduation ceremony. Travis must be going through the same emotional dilemma that he attested to when I spoke with him on the phone — something I cannot imagine handling myself.
I have never experienced this kind of loss firsthand, but it happens to so many struggling teenagers, so many people like me, that it must be addressed as both a personal and a public issue. Suicide is not an uncommon thing.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem.” There are more than 36,000 suicide deaths in the United States every year, and it’s currently the third leading risk of death among teenagers.

So, of all the things that we fear as young adults, rational and irrational, from auto accidents to lightning bolts, one of our greatest real threats exists within us.

Evidently, suicide is not the unthinkable. It can happen to people of all age groups, but in teenagers the risk factors are complex but often explainable. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says that 90 percent of suicide victims have had a psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.

Alcohol and drugs may also impact a person’s decision to end his or her life, and the leading method of suicide is with a firearm. Eighty-three percent of firearm incidents are suicides, often by someone other than the gun owner.

Teenagers are at risk in all of these ways, and there are all kinds of external pressures — including financial, academic, familial and social responsibilities — that can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide.

Another factor that I had not considered arrived in the mail the other day. The latest issue of Time Magazine's cover story reveals the alarming statistic that “more U.S. soldiers have killed themselves than have died in the Afghan War.”

I had to stop and think about some of my close friends from high school who are currently in town, but are headed back soon enough to continue military training. They are at a higher risk than any of my college friends or any other teens that chose not to enlist. Yet, they are still teenagers, going through their own set of adversities that — like the thought of losing a close friend — I cannot come close to imagining. It seems that I have it easy.

The causes of record-high suicide levels among those serving in the military are unclear, according to Time. But enlisted or not, the threat is there.

Regardless of the cause, there is help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 for anyone who is experiencing or has experienced suicidal thoughts, or anyone who is concerned for the life of another. The number is 800-237-TALK.

The resources are out there — it just requires the care and courage to seek them out.

Kent County Community Health says there are about 500 calls placed daily to its suicide lifeline.

We need to support our friends and ensure that they get the help they need.

Next month, I’m back to the college atmosphere, surrounded by my peers. I urge others who live and work so closely with struggling kids, teens, adults, students and soldiers to offer your support, and give them another reason to live.

— By Alexander Sinn, one of our new community columnists. His columns will appear in the Tribune on the fourth Tuesdays of each month.



Suicide happens because simply stated "our society is just depressing to people" Its the little things, and stupid bureaucratic red tape things along with hypocrisy of organizations. When a veteran comes home - he finds the GI bill is not what it was presented-college dreams destroyed. Property taxes are depressing it horrible! They never go away - just haunt you all the days of your life! The low paying jobs with no benefits. Medical issues incurred while on tour of duty with no help or cash assistance. The mistreatment and contempt shown to the elderly. College students see it also. Everything just plain sucks. Car insurance, car repairs and gas prices. So a person looks for a place to immigrate to. Can't find a place on Earth. Its either run by some sadistic dictator or brutal regime. There is no place a person can go to just live off the land and be left alone. If one does that - they get jailed eventually for fishing and hunting without licenses. Their kids get taken away because living in the wilderness is endangering them. The BS is endless and the bondage is everywhere. Being trapped on this planet is hopeless! A person never really owns anything - its all contingency or provisional ownerships of property or rights. Unless they are billionaires of course. And that is the conundrum that facilitates and justifies the acts of suicide in the persons mind. This is a small compilation of conversations I have had with kids, veterans and elderly when they are talking suicide. They have stated "Everything just plains sucks! there is nothing good to look forward too - just plain sucks." For your information hope this helps.


To All Those Who Know Someone Who Killed Themselves....

I first want to share with you a song I heard 2 weeks ago...and this artist specifically made this song for those who feel there is no hope. Go to Youtube and type in Tommee Profitt. The song is You Make Me See. Beautiful song....worth sharing to those who you feel may have a tendancy to committ suicide.

Now...for the post I share whenever the Lord allows me to share.

As a surviving daughter and friend to 2 people who have committed suicide...I would like to share with you what I have learned. It has also helped with the grieving process.

It is my prayer that what I learned is able to help you in any way heal with your hurt that you are feeling.

I read an article years after my father killed himself...and this article talked of all the hows/whys of suicide. It helped me to heal in a much quicker way...and I was able to heal as best as anyone could have healed.

If this letter helps you in any way by me sharing what I went through...then what I went through would not have been in vain. I just ask that you keep this it for if you ever have to help another person to ease their grief. Share with many or with anyone you know who loved someone who commit suicide.

Those who commit suicide do not want to die per say. They just want to end how their mind if feeling. I took a longer look into this statement and it has helped me to get through the stages of grieving my lost ones. They did not want to kill themselves. Their mind just was not wired like yours and mine are.

Although it is hard for anyone to comprehend how come they cannot see life like we do, we must admit, that they DO see life differently. We must share with those we know to be suicidal/depressed ...give them the knowledge that there are treatments for suicidal/depression that are out there. This is an area I think all school districts need to place a heavier emphasis on in educating their children within their care.

Years ago mental health issues were not talked about and considered taboo. Today it is out in the open and addressed. These folks need to know that there are organizations that will help them if they have no insurance too.

No one knows when a person is thinking these thoughts...some will come out and say them, but more often than not they do not. These folks also feel like they are not liked and accepted. We need to stop this bullying and address it at a younger level. Does that mean that it will prevent these. It may. But one life is worth saving!

In conclusion if you are grieving a loss of a loved one who has commit suicide, be easy on yourself. You had no control over what they chose to do. Do not place the blame on yourself. When you look deeper into the true meaning, that they did not want to end their life, they just wanted to end the way their mind was feeling, will be able to ease through the grieving process. And I will not lie to you, it is a very hard process.

My prayer is that one day we will all just get along and accept others. But reality, that is not going to happen. What we can do is address some of the issues that go along with it, and that is to bring mental health to the forefront of the education process in suicide prevention.

I also give all the credit to the Lord for bringing me to a point where I could heal and help others. The Lord has been my solid rock, in whom I find refuge in the storms of life.


Well said.


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