Evading Existence

kurtWhen the feeling of desperation and hopelessness becomes too much to deal with, some teens will go to abysmal extremes to escape the dark cloud that pursues them every single day.

"Why would somebody take their own life?" is a question that I ask myself every morning when I wake up and turn to my oversized poster of Kurt Cobain hanging on my wall. Obviously he felt that he couldn't deal with his depression and hopelessness, so he took his own life.

With that in mind, I want to alert people that suicide is a big issue not only among teens, but also among Latino teens throughout California. I feel that if we as a society save one life then we are doing our share in suicide prevention.

Troubling Statistics

Every hour there are 37 suicide attempts, and 10 percent of those end in death. Each year, 337,000 people commit suicide, making it the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24. More teens die from suicide than cancer, heart disease, birth defects, AIDS, strokes and chronic lung disease COMBINED. 33 percent of suicide victims have made a previous attempt and evidently weren't helped afterward.

shout out graphic
Artwork by Melanie Guerrero of Shout Out.

From 1980 to now, suicide rates among teens has increased 109% and every year, 10,000 Latino youth in California kill themselves. Latino males are five times more likely to commit suicide than Latino females, and more likely to consider suicide than African-Americans. The major risk factors are culturally related and stress due to heritage. Latinos feel more pressure when it comes to finding work, language barriers in school and dealing with all the prejudices and stereotypes directed towards their culture.

Signs of Desperation

Some of the risk factors as to why a teen would even consider taking his/her own life are problems at school or with the law, unexpected pregnancy, a recent loss such as the death of a loved one, a divorce in the family, sexual orientation or confusion or remorse at causing others pain. Some of the signs that somebody close to you may be suicidal -- which can be difficult to spot -- include abrupt changes in personality, perfectionism, promiscuity, lack of interest, significant change in personal habits such as eating and sleeping, use of drugs/alcohol or self-medication, and rebellious or hostile self-destructive behavior.

What You Can Do

If you know someone who is suicidal, reach out and listen; you may end up saving a life. Your goal is to let them vent and give them these three messages; "I take you seriously," "I care about you," and "I want to help." Ask, "Are you thinking of trying to kill yourself?" If yes, ask "When, where, and how?" The bluntness of your questions may cause the person to tell you why they want to die. Simple phrases like, "I understand," "How can I help," and "I've felt the same way" can assist you in case you are stuck and don't know what to say. Coping strategies for stress and depression include being honest about your feelings, setting realistic goals, keeping a sense of humor, and asking for help if you feel overwhelmed.

One myth about suicide is that talking about suicide encourages it, which is very wrong. People in crisis need to talk. Another myth is that people who talk about suicide rarely attempt it, which is also wrong. Out of every ten teens that commit suicide, seven have told someone. Suicide is an equal opportunity killer and it crosses all ethnic and socioeconomic groups -- no one is immune.

But Why…?

Below is a suicide note that may help you understand why somebody would take his own life:

"The fact is, I can't fool you, anyone of you. It simply isn't fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I'm having 100 percent fun. I must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things only when they're gone but, since the age of seven, I've become hateful towards all humans in general. It's better to burn out than to fade away."

Hopefully that gives a clearer understanding into the mind of somebody who is suicidal. In this case, the person was trying to say that life just wasn't fun anymore, it wasn't worth living, and it is better to die trying than to flat out die a quitter. That is the letter of music legend Kurt Donald Cobain of the band Nirvana, who died at age 27 (1967-1994). If this can happen to a famous musician with money, success and glory it can happen to anyone.

As Kurt would say, "Peace, love, empathy."

Cynthia Vega-Sanchez is a writer for Shout Out. You can check out their website at www.shoutoutnews.org.

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