Teenagers not surprised by alarming increase of suicides

REDMOND, Wash. -- Teen suicide rates are climbing at an alarming rate in the United States.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says between 2006 and 2016 they spiked by 70%.

According to statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, on average every week two kids die by suicide in the state of Washington. Suicide is also the number one cause of death among children ages 10 to 14.

“I’m taking seven classes,” said high school student Megan Munson.

She says she’s in class from 7:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day, holds a job and plays sports in addition to juggling her academic workload.

“We are trying to figure out who we are and what we want but at the same time are being pulled into so many different directions and it’s a lot of pressure,” said Munson.

She says a lot of factors can drive a teenager to feel suicidal but these days, social media plays a big role in heightening the pressure to be perfect.

"It’s a pretty negative feeling if you go through your Instagram feed and everyone looks like they’re having a great week when you’re having a terrible one,” said Munson.

Munson says social media also serves as a platform to vent but it’s hard to tell what’s going on behind the screen.

“We don’t know if it’s just a joke or they’re going through something really important,” said Munson .

Dr. Alex Hamling says he’s seeing more teen patients come in talking about the kinds of pressure Munson is feeling. He says parents should directly ask children about suicide.

“Just because you ask your child, 'do you ever consider harming yourself or do you think you’ll commit suicide' won’t plant that idea in their head, the only thing that’ll do is plant that seed to communication,” said Hamling.

Munson says adults checking in on teenagers can help, but in order for teens to open up they need to feel like their feelings are validated.

“I think it could help if parents checked in so long as opening the dialogue wasn’t like oh, if something is negative there will be consequences,” said Munson.

She says she’s found ways to cope with the pressures, but that it has come with a sacrifice she felt she had to make to be healthy, like putting a priority on sleep so she can function during the day and not staying up to do homework.

“I don’t think it’s fair that I had to sacrifice a 4.0 in order to have basic human functions like feeling stable, happy or healthy and I think it’s telling of the workload we have and how unreasonable it is,” said Munson.

Hamling says if teens are posting things on social media about wanting to hurt themselves, posting strange goodbyes, or giving away some of their favorite items, those are hidden signs for parents to look for. Hamling adds if a child is cutting themselves, or showing more violent signs like that, those are cries for help not to be ignored.

Hamling says social media is everywhere and it’s important that parents take on the responsibility to set those boundaries. He says parents should ‘friend’ their child on social media and monitor what they are doing. Hamling says the social world can be very risky to a teenager and parent supervision should happen.