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anartist's avatar

What do you think are causal factors for a significant increase in child and adolescent suicide rates between 1950 and today and what could be done to reduce these rates?

Asked by anartist (14730 points ) January 24th, 2013

Between 1950 and 2005 suicide rates for age groups 5–14, and 15–19 have more than doubled and those of young people 20–24 nearly doubled while those of older people actually have declined.

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0779940.html

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27 Answers

pleiades's avatar

There is a huge correlation between the bombardment of ads and the psyche of the youth in the American culture. We observe and set expectations and even feel the pressures of what we perceive are the expectations. This is especially true in Japan.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

The older generations then had much more economic anxiety now than they did in 1950. The baby boom generation has skewed income and social programs so in their favor that younger people are experiencing far more economic stress than they are.

Coloma's avatar

The faux “American Dream“scene has deteriorated into a survival nightmare in the last several decades. The post WW2 baby boomers were the last to cling to that now, largely outdated and unattainable dream for many.
The american dream has now morphed into a basic survival nightmare for a lot of people.
Suicide rates always climb in times of economic downturns, people lose hope, they are tired of fighting the good fight. Young people see nothing ahead but endless hours of work for little reward.

I totally empathize, this fucking world makes basic comfortable living nearly impossible without immense stress and effort. It’s all quite tragic IMO.

anartist's avatar

But @Coloma, @Imadethisupwithnoforethought suicide rates decreased for older populations at least up until 2005. The significant uptick is with CHILDREN. See the link.

This all may have wildly changed between 2005 and 2012 but I could not find data for that. To me it seems to have more to do with the loss of innocent childhood, when talking in class and chewing gum were the major discipline problems, not bringing guns to school. Child murderers may well show similar statistics over the time period.

Coloma's avatar

@anartist Yes, but white males over the age of 60 are still winning by more than a nose.
Older people give up and are tired, younger people feel hopeless and see little reward for investing their lives in the system.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@anartist are you looking at the chart you posted? People in the baby boom generation have been cut in half from their ancestors, every other age group has spiked upwards.

YARNLADY's avatar

The alarming increase of families where both parents work and the children are either left to fend for themselves or placed in day care.

rojo's avatar

We expect so much more of children these days. They do not have the luxury of being kids, they need to be miniature adults and their minds are simply not up to the task.

anartist's avatar

@rojo it is more than just expectations [stimulating babies’ brains with “Baby Einstein” etc so they will get into Yale]

but yes, they do not have the luxury of being kids. But why is that? Cellphones? Goth? birth control? internet? both parents working? Especially dual professionals who live for their csareers? And how could it be different?

Maybe the post WWII era that created the boomers was the best, most peaceful and prosperous time this country has ever experienced. Certainly suicide rates were a lot higher during the Depression.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

Economic expansion and the consequences of downturn would have a very large impact considering the severe impact it has on young adulthood. It isn’t as “easy” as it was in the 1950s therefore, to put quite simply, the world is a tiresome place for them moreso than the elders

In addition we are adapting to a culture that provokes this behavior, the internet, the entertainment, the reaction to open homosexuality etc

As far as teenagers and adolescents are concerned it is more than likely a reaction to the environment they grow in considering that a majority of families live under stressed conditions.

What can we do to change this? Not much, sadly, unless we were to change an established infrastructure in our civilization, to that reminiscent of the 1950s. We would have to modify modern society to more ideal terms… I dont see that happening (at least yet)

anartist's avatar

There are so many more controversial aspect to our diverse culture than there were long ago and some of them are big issues for children to face.

Can you imagine a president addressing the issue of gay marriage in an inaugural address in 1957? Or acceptance of unwed motherhood? or even common drug use now into the second generation? Or all the cultural diversity issues with so many segments of our society becoming more visible and outspoken and sometimes divisive? Or terrorism? Or even extreme christianity and secular backlash? Or islam and terrorism being linked? Just so many things so visible to formerly more naive and more innocent children whose biggest issues might have been whether to “go below the waist” in the back seat of a car?

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JLeslie's avatar

My guess is young people have more pressures now. More in school, which includes pressure from parents to get good grades, pressure to excell, pressure socially to fit in. Our society is more technology oriented and less farm communities. In addition possibly there are smaller amounts of mom and pop businesses, which also has led to more pressure on education, and more pressure for people to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. When parents handed down businesses and trades I think maybe it was easier in some ways, but of course can be more limiting and stressful in others. The expectation now for people to go to college is much higher, so getting into college also has more pressure.

I also think the breakdown of the American family has greatly affected children and also both parents working with less availability of the extended family around. Women have always worked, except for a brief time around the 1950’s when we were in Leave it to Beaver world. But, previously there was more support in the family through grandparents, aunts and uncles. I think divorce might have some brief affect when the divorce is first happening, but studies show long term children of divorce do as well as children of married couples in almost all parameters. However, children born out of wedlock have a lot working against them, those children don’t do as well on average, and that stat has gone way up.

Economics I assume play a part also. There have been studies that people feel badly about themselves when the people around them have much more material things. A good portion of America is obsessed with always having the newest technology, the biggest house, and the most expensive car. For young children they notice what their parents have compared to others, and they know when they don’t have the expensive backpack or sneakers. Especially through the 80’s and beyond my impression is living on credit more ways than one to keep up with the Jones’ increased greatly. Plus, someone mentioned above that the elderly now have more stable economic conditions, which is true, but kids and young adults probably feel like they have less, or less control over their economics.

That brings me to control, I think a lot of young people feel out of control, which leads to anxiety and depression.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie I think everyone feels out of control in this economy.
I know several 50 somethings that have lost everything on the brink of retirement.
It is a collective pall that is blanketing the globe IMO.
Few will escape unscathed.

I have gone from zero debt and a fat bank account to 10k in debt and almost no money left in the last 3 years. Pretty depressing.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma Absolutely. And, family financial instability is going to affect children. Even when the economy was good, families were still unstable and in big debt, because of how America was living on credit.

I also think the feeling of being “different” is much more common among children now.

Carinaponcho's avatar

Being an adolescent, and knowing people who have attempted suicide, I would say the main trigger that puts these ideas in people’s heads is the media. I think the idea of self harm and suicide have gained a popularity because it was happening so often on television and in books. It’s a thought that probably wouldn’t have even crossed some people’s minds if the media hasn’t brought up the idea. The media also projects the idea that people have control over their own lives, and it is their own choice whether they want to continue living or not.

rooeytoo's avatar

Once someone has done it, it becomes a viable alternative instead of an abstract theory. So one kid does it and it sets off a chain reaction.

But can a 5 year old commit suicide?

JLeslie's avatar

@rooeytoo They can. There was a story when I lived in FL years ago that a very young child, my memory fails me, I think she was six, walked in front of an oncoming train in front of her older siblings because she wanted to be with her mom in heaven who had recently passed.

But, suicide rates for such young children are very rare as you can see from the OP’s link.

rooeytoo's avatar

@JLeslie – If a child that age murdered someone they would say the child wasn’t capable of realizing what death is, etc. so I don’t think one that age would be capable of deciding to kill themselves???

anartist's avatar

But they do.
And they do kill others. Like a very young boy, under 10 I think, who dropped his baby brother out the window deliberately.

anartist's avatar

I think blaming it on the economy is not really the issue. Acute downfalls and upswings occur regularly and although now is quite a deep trough, we have pulled up out of a lot of it [thanks to Obama] and economy is still upticking.

But the steady increase of suicide rates of the very young has increased steadily for over half a century.

Part of it might be that people’s priorities have undergone major changes during that period.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@anartist I think you want to find a reason for it not being the economy. Last time I checked, college loans were a crushing debt for many young people, in a way that it never was for previous generations, and those that have suffered the worst hit to their income was generation X.

JLeslie's avatar

@rooeytoo I think you are right, they don’t really grasp what death is. To her death meant going to a place with mommy. One time that heaven explanation went really wrong. As far as murder, it’s too fold, whatever they do to the other person they might not realize it will kill the other person, and also they may not fully understand what happens when someone dies.

JLeslie's avatar

@anartist Some of the most suicidal people at the psych hospital I worked at were men who had lost their jobs or having significant financial problems after having been fairly affluent. When the stock market crashed causing the Great Depression, men jumped out of buildings as all their wealth disappeared.

MaskedRider78's avatar

I would say that when kids feel kids feel sad and pissed off, they want to commit suicide. My friend’s son does it all the time. but the rate must have gone down, because less kids say it not spray it.

anartist's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought maybe I do, but I just believe there is more to it than money.
@JLeslie you are right. After the crash the suicide rate was extremely high, far higher than in the 50s. But it was primarily suicides of adult men. Child suicide was unheard of.

Maybe it’s because today kids have access to things like this:
http://www.ctrl-c.liu.se/~ingvar/methods/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alt.suicide.holiday
https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=nl&fromgroups#!forum/alt.suicide.holiday
https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/alt.suicide.methods

@MaskedRider78 granted, usually kids saying it are being histrionic. People who say “I want to kill you usually don’t either, although that might not stop them from being hauled in as a suspect if the person croaks], but with a child, even SAYING it is a cause for at least concern. Who knows what they are persuading each other to go ahead and do on the internet?

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