The student voice of Vista del Lago High School

Teen Suicide: The Road to an Irreversible Decision

June 1, 2017

It’s easy to fear the dark shadows that lie ahead and even easier to feel like the shadow. We fear the things we don’t understand and remain satisfied with the understatement of it. We speak and rant about inconsequential subjects, and let the darkness remain in the shadows.

Misery travels the mind and sorrow fills our hearts, yet all we are told is that “it will get better.” They say “time heals everything,” but we fear that time is the one thing we have less of.

Adults ignore how their own child is suffering from that “thing” that happened at school yesterday, and say “it was nothing. Suck it up.”

Teenagers drink alcohol and do drugs to relieve the pain, to forget and to feel okay again, even if it’s only for a night. It leads them down deep, dark roads: depression, drugs and alcohol abuse, bullying, stress, and worst of all, suicide.

When it comes to suicide, we are hushed and told that the topic is much too “sensitive” or “inappropriate” to be spoken of. Each year 44,193 Americans die by suicide and it is the third leading cause of teenage deaths. Yet still, the topic of suicide is dreaded by many, especially in school. 

You can’t just say the depressed person is a warning sign.”

— Mr. Estes

“I think there’s a fine line when it comes to talking about suicide,” Janelle Kell, a counselor at Vista del Lago High School said. “I think students need to know who to go to, who to talk to, and what some of the signs are, but I think the more that it’s talked about, the more it gets into your head.”

Although the warning signs to suicide may seem obvious, they’re not always conspicuous.

“There are generic warning signs, but it can be both ways,” counselor Mr. Estes said. “A person could withdraw from their friends and seem like they’re depressed and that’s a warning sign, but what about a person who’s really happy and excited? That can be a warning sign too because they’ve committed to suicide and they’re relieved from it. You can’t just say the depressed person is a warning sign.” 

There’s not one specific answer as to what leads to suicide and what to do to prevent it, but there are many leading causes and everyone should be aware of them.

One of the major causes of suicide is mental illness. A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.  

One of the most common mental health issues is Depression, which is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It’s not always caused by environmental factors. Biochemistry, genetics and even personality can play a role in depression. It nearly affects 1 in 10 adults; twice as many women as men. Depression can strike at anytime and it is important to know it has a variety of symptoms. Including; changes in appetite, loss of energy, too little or too much sleep, feelings of worthlessness or thoughts of death or suicide.

“Depression feels like you’re in a hole,” sophomore Caiou Dowds said. “You can’t get out of that hole and it seems like nothing’s going right when you’re depressed.” 

In a survey about teen suicide and the warning signs, asked at Vista Del Lago High school, 152 of 428 respondents said that they have dealt with depression. That’s 35 percent of students going to school with a form of mental illness.

My depression started around 6th grade in middle school, and it lasted throughout my three years of middle school,” senior Alysia Ortiz said. “It all started because my first mom had died and my second mom was also in depression, so that didn’t help me at all. I felt neglected and I had to take care of my little brother all by myself. It was absolutely horrible and I came to school with a mask on every day and didn’t show my sadness because I just felt like that’s what I had to do.” 

I came to school with a mask on every day…”

— Alysia Ortiz

Like Ortiz, many others hide the pain they feel inside.

“For as long as I can remember, there’s always been a hollowness in my chest,” junior Victoria Arreola said. “At first I didn’t really know what it was, I just dealt with it, but as time went on I realized that I’m not supposed to feel this way.”

There are many ways to get someone help. Many may deny that they have a mental health issue, but it’s important to realize that some people avoid it because they fear knowing that they have a problem and they believe the best way to handle it is to avoid it. However, that is not the case.

Drugs and alcohol are said to be the second leading cause of depression. Nonetheless, alcohol and substance abuse can contribute to negative social problems which can further increase the risk of suicide. This is because people who use alcohol or drugs are exposed to situations and events that can have significant traumatic effects on their mental health. In the survey, 52.6 percent students stated that they believe drugs and alcohol can lead to depression. 

“Many people use drugs and alcohol as a way to get distracted, but I feel like it just hinders your mind even more,” Arreola said. “You’re already in a delicate state, so being under the influence makes it even worse.”

Cyber Bullying and Physical bullying can also be damaging to a person’s life. Most of these tragic effects have much to do with social media. Some teens feel pressured to keep up with the expectations that society has set out for them.

“Seeing images that society has set up and not being like those images drags you further into a sinking hole, and it makes you feel like you’re not adequate,” Arreola said. “It makes you think, ‘I don’t look like that, why am I here?’ Many people think it’s easy to ignore those comments, but it’s not.” 

Seeing images that society has set up and not being like those images drags you further into a sinking hole…”

— Victoria Arreola

Nowadays, it’s easy for people to sit behind a screen and post brutal things about others, which can affect someone’s everyday life. The rumors start to come in, and that person gets surrounded by people giving them ugly looks and whispering horrible comments. The Cyber-bullying Research Center reported that mean comments and spreading rumors are the most common type of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying victims often have low self-esteem and are likely to consider suicide. 

“I didn’t have friends until I was in middle school,” Arreola said. “My dad and my mom are not around much, and I would get bullied because I basically didn’t have parents. People would make fun of me because of that, and that’s always been stuck around the back of my head.”

People need to understand that sometimes, even the slightest mean comment can affect the way a person feels physically and mentally. Although someone may say something that they feel is minor, that “minor” issue can hurt someone drastically.

“I think we live in a very mean culture,” Kell said. “People need to look at a person and really view them as a person, not just somebody they walk past in the hall or sit next to in class because that’s an actual person that matters and has a purpose in life.” 

People need to look at a person and really view them as a person…”

— Ms. Kell

Bullying also ties in with the idea of expectations, pressure, and the idea of perfectionism. The pressure to be perfect can lead to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in the most vulnerable people, but especially among people who are also feeling very hopeless, psychological pain, and socially isolated.

“You’re going to have expectations placed on you in every realm,” administrator Dana Dunams said. “In your academics, in your social life, in the way you wear your clothes. There’s going to be expectations in every single facet of life.”

Many perfectionist’s thoughts become fixed on his or her thoughts that he or she is not living up to his/her perfect ideal self. These thoughts then pave the way for feelings of inferiority, deficiency, and hopelessness, which are all feelings that are at the root of suicidal behaviors.

“Having so much pressure placed on me feels affects my lifestyle because I have to stay up late at night to finish my homework, study for AP exams, and keep my grades up,” senior Richard Medina said. “It makes me feel like I’ve fallen off a train and now it’s dragging me to continue on, and here I am struggling to get back on top.”

Fortunately, there are ways to cope with stress and depression, deal with bullying, and stop doing drugs and alcohol. Whether you are a minor or an adult, professional help is closer than it might seem. Child psychiatrists, physical nurse practitioners, psychologists, social workers and mental health counselors are always ready to listen and get you help. There are also 24 hour help lines, if you feel as if suicide might be a consideration.

As for people not knowing what to do when they recognize any of the signs, the number one step to take is make sure that you talk to them and make them understand that not one thing on this earth is more important than their health and life. Find help as soon as possible, even if it means that person will dislike you. Always remember that you are saving a life.  

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