Why do teenagers kill themselves?
On that edge “the world is a distant place, we are so caught up within our own heads that nothing matters, and nothing can be thought of logically”.
“All the good things in life seem to fade away in the distance and the negatives that get us down dominate and control our thoughts. Everything is black and the future seems like a dream that can’t be achieved.”
This last comment echoes the research of Andrew MacLeod in the University of Edinburgh who compared two groups of young people, one who had attempted suicide and were deemed to be at high risk of repeating this behaviour, with another who had no history of depression or suicidal behaviour.
His expectation was that he would find the first group had fewer goals and aspirations than the second.
What he found was something much more poignant. Both groups were similar in terms of their hopes and dreams for the future.
The dreams of the “at risk” group were just as precious to them, but the difference was they didn’t believe they would ever happen.
When asked what helped young people to come back from the edge, there was a resounding consensus that it was the presence of someone who cared: “When at the edge the chains weigh us down, we need someone to see this, and help us to carry these chains and slowly break the links.
“Having that person with you, willing to walk through this with you, is a real indicator you are not alone, and helps more than 1,000 people saying you are not alone. Actions speak louder than words.”
Glimmer of hope
Hope was also felt to be critical: “Just one small glimmer of hope that can be found anywhere. It could be a parent, teacher, best friend, a song lyric, a stranger who might smile at you, literally anything.
“It gives a person the last will to fight, to take all that pain and anger and push it back at what’s got them down, to stand up and say that I am stronger than this, to realise that they are just as worthy to be alive as anyone else and that they don’t have to give up.”
The My World Survey (Headstrong and UCD, 2012) found that the most powerful predictor of resilience and positive mental health in a survey of more than 14,000 young people was the presence in a young person’s life of an adult who cared about them, someone who believed in them and who was available to them (see diagram).
That “One Good Adult” might be a parent but it could also be a teacher, a sports coach, a youth worker, an uncle, an aunt or a grandparent.
Someone who listens
Someone who simply in the way they looked at that young person, listened to them and took them seriously, instilled in them the feeling that they belonged, that their life mattered, that they could make it work.