By Ryan Broadbent A teenager stands in the middle of a dry and desolate paddock with what is left of his father’s once magnificent flock of sheep.
He holds the rifle used to execute the remaining sheep. He thinks of all the pressure on his family and the constant teasing at school. He raises the gun and without thinking fires. When his father finds the young man’s body later that day, it is not a pretty sight. The farmer thinks to himself, why didn’t I know this was how he felt and why did he kill himself? The deep depression felt by teenagers who often take their own life is a worrying trend in both rural and urban youth.
Their behaviour is parallel to that of an adult’s depression (loss of appetite or sudden over eating, anxiety, despair, guilt and loss of sleep), but their depression may show its self more indirectly. Shaun Lukes, a researcher into youth suicide, sites daydreaming, acting as the class clown, hypoactivity and the sudden dislike of school and/or a dramatic fall in school performance as pointers to potential suicidal behaviour. The main risk factors in suicide attempts are heavy alcohol consumption; depression; Aboriginality; male; previous attempted suicide attempt; significant fall out in a relationship in recent months (a very high risk factor). These factors can be recognised and acted upon, either with counselling from the family doctor or by access to one of the many “help lines” run by specialist support groups. A school student is constantly harassed by his school ‘mates’ and is pressured by his parents to get an income – he contemplates suicide.
He tells one of his few friends of his plan. The friend considers this a joke or that he is having a bad day and he replies with, “maybe you should take some vitamins. Anyway when I broke up with my girlfriend I was more upset than you are but I got over it.” When dealing with another persons’ life, this is the wrong attitude to take. To encourage someone to chose life over death, you need to be understanding and persuasive.
Questions such as “I’ve noticed you seem pretty low, what seems to be the problem?” may encourage a person to talk about their problems and not consider ending their life as the only option open. Professor Baume, the Director of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research And Prevention (AISRAP), suggested that 50 in every 100,000 males between the ages of 15-24, commit suicide in Queensland annually. “These figures are extremely worrying with this average nearly 35% higher than the rest of the nation,” said Professor Baume. The AISRAP also found that in rural areas, males’ suicides had increased ten fold between 1964-1993. Female suicide rates increased four fold during the same time period.
The escalating youth suicide rate means people in contact with teenagers need to be aware of the danger signs pointing to suicide. A friend who does not seem to be enjoying what life has to offer is a potential suicide victim. Showing them that their life is of value to you may be all they need to prevent them becoming a statistic in the saga of escalating youth suicide. Ryan B