Suicide among adolescents, is prevalent in all races, both genders, across state lines, and occurs in countries other than the United States. In the United States, suicide is one of four leading causes of death in young people between the ages of 10 and 24 (Galligan et al., 2010). Thompson (2006) cites feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, isolation and alienation as contributing factors to suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts in adolescents.
In today’s society, adolescents are subject to several influences, such as social media outlets, including, but not limited to: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and MySpace. All four of the social media outlets allow, and encourage its users to remain in constant contact with their friends, family and followers, by sharing personal information about their whereabouts, pictures and daily life in general. In the case of Facebook, users update their status, explaining what they are doing, plan to do, and have done. In a society where people measure themselves against others, Facebook allows adolescents to compare themselves to their peers, which may cause feelings of inadequacy. Furthermore, on Facebook and MySpace, users have friends. Another way for adolescents to compare themselves, includes the difference in friend count. An adolescent may rate their value based on how many friends are on their MySpace or Facebook page. And on Twitter, users have followers, which may lead adolescents to equate a high amount of followers with popularity, trickling down into life beyond the World Wide Web.
Adolescents are also subject to images in the media that sensationalize real life struggles. Reality television shows like “Teen Mom,” illustrate the struggles faced by teenagers with children, but also glamorize their lives, suggesting that children starting families is acceptable and normal. These types of media influences send mixed signals to young people. When adolescents have friends who emulate the people who they see on television, they may feel pressure to behave in the same manner.
During the adolescent phase of life, children are more susceptible to a surge of vulnerability, causing them to act out, and participate in activities with the wrong crowd. Adolescents assume, incorrectly, that if they do not conform to what their friends deem cool, they will be outcasts, and no one will like them. Adolescents also believe that the opinion of their peers is more important than that of their parents (Galligan et al., 2010). Gender roles are strict when children enter the adolescent phase, and that type of restriction on developing children can cause anxiety and anger. In adolescent males, restricted gender roles, as they are trying to figure out who they are, can cause them to detest anything related to homosexuality (Galligan et al., 2010).
To overcome peer pressure, feelings of loneliness, suicidal ideation, and any other contributing factors to suicide, adolescents must be resilient. Galligan et al. (2010) describes adolescents as resilient since birth. However, life’s pressure and stressors can cause characteristics that people are born with to disappear during corruption via negative outside influences.
Galligan, S. B., Barnett, R. V., Brennan, M. A., & Israel, G. D. (2010). Understanding the link between gender role conflict, resilience, and propensity for suicide in adolescent and emerging adult males. International Journal Of Men's Health, 9(3), 201-210.
Thompson, R. A. (2006). Nurturing future generations: Promoting resilience in children and adolescents through social, emotional and cognitive skills. New York, NY: Routledge.