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Could You Spot A Suicide Signal?

April 5th, 2009 · 3 Comments

We lived almost directly opposite The Gap, a notorious suicide site in Sydney’s Watson’s Bay, for six years. We moved in when our first son was six. We moved out just before he turned 12.

The location was spectacular. Across the road was the edge of Australia. We could stare at the Pacific Ocean from a number of rooms.

But Old South Head Road was also a place of danger and death, and as my sons were growing I became more and more fearful.

There is an understanding between media organisations and the relevant government departments that most suicides will go unreported by the media, because there has shown to be a spike in copy-cat suicides following any news report. The ones you read about now mostly involve people with a profile.

However, when you’re living near a favoured suicide spot it’s difficult to avoid the frequency. Countless times policemen knocked at our door to ask how long a certain car had been parked across the road. I would wander outside to see a chalk outline of an abandoned vehicle, thought to have been left there by someone who subsequently jumped to their death. We would take our dog for a walk in the park along the clifftop and happen upon SES crews winching a body up from the depths below. Blood-curdling cries in the night would prevent me from sleeping, screaming matches on the sidewalk between love-torn couples would leave me wondering if they were near The Gap for a reason.

And then there was my constant awareness of the dangers of teenage suicide, particularly prevalent amongst young men. I was scared to be living there with teenage boys.

The incidence of teenage suicide has declined in recent years as the result of better awareness and education, thanks largely to the government-funded National Suicide Prevention strategy and the work of organisations like Suicide Prevention Foundation. Ten years ago there were 2700 suicides a year. Today the number is down to 1800, but 80 percent are by males. Interestingly, 80 percent of attempted suicides are by females – a cry for help.

A fact sheet at the Living Is For Everyone site outlines suicide signals as follows.
• Depressed mood
• Substance abuse
• Frequent episodes of running away or being incarcerated
• Family loss or instability; significant problems with parents
• Expressions of suicidal thoughts, or talk of death or the afterlife during moments of sadness or boredom
• Withdrawal from friends and family
• Difficulties in dealing with sexual orientation
• No longer interested in or enjoying activities that once were pleasurable
• Unplanned pregnancy
• Impulsive, aggressive behavior or frequent expressions of rage

Another useful resource is A Cry For Help, a cheat sheet to the changes in your teenager and their behaviour before they may be planning suicide. Definitely worth a read.

Tags: Depression · Self-esteem · Suicide

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anonymous // Apr 5, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Mom Blogs – Blogs for Moms…

  • 2 Is Your Child Involved In Cyberbullying? « The Teen Years // Apr 7, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    [...] him feeling down and depressed in his room and was naturally concerned (see my posting on suicide). Apparently a girl that he was clearly interested in shut him down in msn [...]

  • 3 Megan Brodie // May 6, 2010 at 11:11 am

    A close friend of my teenage son recently committed suicide at 16. There were no reasons. He came from a good home, had two parents who loved him (and each other), was popular and well-liked, attended a fantastic school, was previously involved with a girl with whom he was still friends etc etc. Yet when it happened, I was amazed at how mothers in particular needed an explanation – was he mentally ill? Depressed? Struggling with a relationship? His sexuality? Did his mother work? Did she not work?
    Suicide is a huge issue with teenage boys and this event has been life-changing for my son. The world is now a different place for him and for all of us who love him. And, despite all my research, the one thing I know is we can’t protect them from themselves, whether it is though speeding in a car or doing something reckless.
    Teenage boys do not think through the consequences of their actions, resulting in some very bad decisions. Love them, watch them and pray they’ll be OK because life is not a text book – sometimes there are no signs and no reasons.

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