Teen Suicide – A Psychologist’s point of view

I interviewed a professional psychologist about a very important issue today. About a problem that is not spoken about but it should be. Teen suicide.

Have you ever had serious cases of teen depression?
Yes I have. I have also had suicide cases in teenagers or attempts.

What was the main cause for these suicides/attempts?
Most of these were based on family problems. The parents were against them and whatever they did would be considered as wrong.

because no one is really lost until death

Who is most at risk?
Boys were the majority of cases. The cases that I have followed, were mostly of teenagers older than 15, though there were some exceptions of 12 year olds. The younger teenagers affected are usually girls, whilst the boys have these issues at an older age. This obviously is in the cases I followed.

How do you start to work with these kids?
Institutions, or the courts, send these patients to me, or the teens come by themselves. Parents usually never send their kids, because they do not want to confront the problem, or because it is there fault or they don’t realise something should be done.

Have the number of suicides/attempts increased over the years?
In my case the percentage of suicides did not increase that much, in the sense that there were a lot of cases even before.

Can you give us some examples of cases you have followed?
One teenage girl I helped had decided to stop seeing me after a few years, because she was not able to confess all of her problems. It was hard for her to express her emotions because they were too strong. After a few years of not seeing the psychologist she decided to kill herself.

Another case was a boy who was in jail because of drug dealing, who decided to kill himself after a few doctors’ appointments. He had a friend in jail. He was able to continue this period in jail thanks to him though it was decided to move him to another cell. This meant that he fell into depression. Before he died he wrote a letter blaming his family for his death.

Another case starts off with the adoptive mother of a teenage boy dying. This boy starts to take drugs also because of this major loss in his life. After one year, the girlfriend of this boy kills herself. Three days later her sister kills herself too. A week later after the loss of these two important women in his life, he was driven to attempt suicide. This left him in a severe condition and then in coma. I wasn’t able to help him as much as I wished, because I was his doctor only for the drug addiction.

A final example could be the story of this teenage girl, whose parents had divorced. She had a violent dad, who had tried twice to through her from the window. At the time I was her mother’s doctor. She needed advice on how to help her young teenage daughter. She had stopped going to school and was starting to get obese. Now she visits a doctor although she never went back to school.

Do you think the psychologist’s job is essential in these cases?
The doctor’s help is essential, even in the hardest cases because no one is really lost until death. Everyone deserves to be helped, no matter how bad the conditions are or the age. In jail it is harder to help because life in jail is a drastic change in the lifestyle of an individual. Therefore it is harder to analyse the problems which brought the individual to jail, if more problems arise with the entrance into jail.

What do you think should be done in order to change and decrease the number of teenage suicides?
There is a lot of loneliness, and this is the major problem nowadays. The courts can help, though more investment in prevention in schools should be done. So more activities regarding this aspect should be analysed in schools with the help of specialised doctors. Not only  public schools, which are now having a group of psychologists, including myself should have this help. Private schools should also provide their students with a course of prevention. This includes activities on emotion control or on general problems that might arise at this particular age; improving skills on problem solving or on increasing self-esteem should help all teens needs with problems tied to the emotions.

In addition prevention at a younger age should be increased, through the description of emotions. This is mainly because studies show that if you learn to understand your emotions and understand other peoples’ ones, you will have the possibility to know how to solve issues for the rest of your life. Problems such as stress are related to dramatic events.

Where can someone in Italy go if they need help?
If you have the strength to ask for help, go ask. Hospitals have centres which are free now in Italy. If not, tell a friend or just anyone you are close to, a pen friend could also help. If they are far, the confessions might be easier, and they are also helpful, in the sense that they could help to break loneliness.

The real resolution is to hope for a better future and sometimes believing in something (religion) might help too.

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