It’s every parent’s nightmare – but unfortunately the current suicide case of three young women in Lower Saxony is not an isolated incident. Statistically, at least one teenager or young adult takes his or her own life every day in Germany. According to the latest data from the German Federal Statistical Office, there were a total of 587 suicides among people under 26 in 2009. Among them were 456 young men and 131 young women.
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Young adults 20 to 25 years old most often choose suicide (372). The second major group is teens ages 15 to 19 (194). However, suicide also occurs in younger people – although rarely (21).
In total, the Federal Office registered 9616 suicides in Germany in 2009. The total number has been decreasing for years. In contrast, suicide rates among adolescents and young adults have remained relatively constant for years – and so have the gender proportions: about three times more boys than girls take their own lives. Experts see the cause in the fact that boys choose harder methods. Suicidal thoughts, on the other hand, were more common among girls, they said. There are no statistics on the number of suicide attempts.
Why teenagers commit suicide
But why are teenagers in particular often suicidal?? "Adolescence is the time of crisis", explains Michael Witte of the German Society for Suicide Prevention (DGS). "There’s detachment from parents, school stress, new relationships, new conflicts, difficult choices ahead – and always doubts." Many teenagers slip into a crisis of meaning.
"For young people, it’s also a sense of failure and abandonment: I’m different, I don’t belong, I’m not worth anything, I can’t do anything. It is an inner devaluation and at the same time an insufficiently developed self-confidence. You still lack the ability to take your own problems into your own hands", according to Witte.
"’The pressure has increased’
Professor Gerd Lehmkuhl, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University Hospital in Cologne, also sees adolescents in the – increasingly early – onset of puberty in a very vulnerable phase, in which they can be particularly susceptible to suicidal thoughts. At the same time, he observes a societal failure: "The pressure from outside has increased. Families, parents are no longer as good at picking up their kids. Social support has become less and demands are increasing, also at school."
Early warning system needed: these are warning signals
The number of suicides and suicide attempts is alarming and, according to Lehmkuhl, shows: "We need to establish an early warning system. All those who deal with teenagers need to look, be sensitized to early signs. Children and young people torment themselves. You can get them out of their particular threat, help them out. But if the problem is not taken seriously enough, it can be fatal – and deadly."
These are warning signs that parents, in particular, should pay attention to: