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Teenage Suicide


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The daughter of someone I know (he is head of history at a local school) killed herself recently. Alice was 18 years old and after gaining four grade As in her A levels and had just won a place at Oxford University. She had excelled at everything she did. Alice had gained 11 As at GCSE, was captain of the best junior hockey team in Sussex and was also a talented musician. Alice had plenty of friends and had just returned from holiday with her boyfriend.

Her body was found at the foot of Beachy Head. At first it was thought that she had fallen by accident. However, at home, they found the following two suicide notes:

(1) For all those who love me please don’t feel in any way responsible for my death. Life is simply not for me. I am not filled with grief as I write these words. I simply have no will to carry on living and the idea of death does not scare me. I would especially like to thank Alex (her boyfriend) for showing me a fantastic summer and making me truly happy. Good luck with everything in the future and don’t let this event stop you for doing anything. Please don’t mourn my death.

(2) I am so sorry. Please forgive me.

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Its quiet sad to think that people you think you know so well actually have a lot of problems that they don't tell us. Suicide has been a big part of my life over the years. A friend of my older brothers, had been suffering from a mental illness for several years, but was taking medication and actually seemed to be getting better, but killed himself by walking into a truck on a highway, and again, another friend of my brothers deliberately overdosed on medication. A family friend of mine attempted suicide about 7 years ago, and had just been married and bought a house.

I also know a number of people who have spoken to me about the possibility of committing suicide. I think the problem of excessive strain being put upon teenagers to succeed should be addressed. Being a teenager myself, I know the stress most teenagers are under to achieve high results in school and university.

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I also know a number of people who have spoken to me about the possibility of committing suicide. I think the problem of excessive strain being put upon teenagers to succeed should be addressed. Being a teenager myself, I know the stress most teenagers are under to achieve high results in school and university.

I am sure this is the main reason for the increase in teenage suicides. I suspect it is the primary reason for Alice’s actions. People argue that she had tremendous academic success as a student. However, that in itself causes problems. For high achieving students, they create standards that they fear they cannot maintain. They suspect that they will not be able to keep it up. The crisis usually comes when they are about to leave for university. They have been at the top while at school. Can they maintain this at a university that attracts the brightest from all over the world. Some are not mentally tough enough to cope with this pressure and commit suicide before going to face this test.

The present educational system is doing terrible things to our young people. It is not only those who feel they have failed who are the victims. As Alice’s case shows, the winners also pay a high price for taking part in such a competitive system.

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I do believe you are right. I also think stresses such as friendships and other relationships play a major role. In my case, I do not feel as if I am being pressured so much by my family, but mostly by my peers.

Achieving success in the senior years of high school is difficult and the thought of having to raise your work standard even higher placed quiet a bit of stress upon myself and my friends. Something really needs to be done to let students know that if you don't make it into a certain university or gain a certain degree, that it is not the end of the world and there are many other ways to achieve in life.

Edited by Adam Wilkinson
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In 1998, people in the 25-44 years age group had the highest rate of suicide (23 suicides per 100,000 persons), followed by people in the 15-24 years age group (17 suicides per 100,000 persons), according to a report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. There were 2683 suicides registered in 1998, 40 less than in 1997.

The overall suicide rate in 1998 was much the same as it was in 1921 at 14 suicides per 100,000 persons. However, over this period the rate has fluctuated considerably and the components which make up the rate have changed. For example, although male suicide rates have been significantly higher than female rates every year, this ratio has varied from a high of five male suicides to every female suicide in 1921-1925 to a low of two to one in 1966-1970.

The suicide rate has varied by age over this period with the trend for older Australians being the reverse of that for young people. Suicide rates declined in the 65-plus age group (from 27 per 100,000 persons in 1921-1925 to 15 in 1996-1998) and increased in the 15-24 years age group (from 6 to 17 over the same period).

In 1998, people living in capital cities had the lowest rate of suicide (13 per 100,000 persons). In general people living in other urban areas had the next lowest rate (15), and people living in rural areas had the highest (17).

In 1998, the Northern Territory recorded the highest death rate from suicide (21 per 100,000 persons), followed by Queensland and South Australia (16), Western Australia (15), New South Wales (13), Tasmania and Victoria (12) and the Australian Capital Territory (9.5). Care needs to be taken, however, when interpreting State and Territory suicide rates because of small numbers and yearly fluctuations, especially in the smaller States and Territories.

The ABS has tabulated all causes and conditions reported on death certificates since 1997. Results show that in 1998 15% of males and 18% of females who suicided also had an associated or contributory diagnosis of a mental disorder. Approximately 4% of males and 5% of females who suicided also had a disease of the circulatory system mentioned on their death certificate.

In the period 1995-1997, using estimates based on the 1996 Census, married people (9 per 100,000 persons) were less likely to die from suicide than those who were never married (22), widowed (13) or divorced (26 per 100,000 persons).

In general, the most likely method of suicide for males throughout the 1990s was hanging, and for females poisoning by solid or liquid substance. However, in 1998, hanging was the leading method of suicide for both males and females.

* Some Australian statistics on suicide - Australian Bureau of Statistics

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