Suicide Replaces Homicide as Second Cause of Death in Teens



Jacob Peterson


May 10, 2017 (San Diego) The recent suicide by 15-year-old Jacob Peterson, has left many in the community asking questions. If anybody in your life says that they want to harm themselves, or kill themselves, believe them. This is regardless of the age of the person in question.

So what is suicide? It is a form of self-harm that results in death when successful. Not all attempts are successful, and some are classified as accidents. Some are cries for help as well. While the numbers of suicide attempts remain stable, they are far more successful than they used to be.

According to the Population Reference Bureau:

Suicides have become the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, surpassing homicide deaths, which dropped to third on the list (see Figure 1). The teenage suicide rate increased from 8 deaths per 100,000 in 1999 to 8.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2014.

Higher suicide rates are driven in part by changes in the method of suicide. Suffocation, which includes hanging and strangulation, and is highly lethal, increased as a method of suicide. A rising suicide rates among teenage girls is driving the higher overall suicide rate.

However, as counter-intuitive as this may sound, mortality has dropped from 68.8 deaths per 100,000 in 1999 to 45.5 per 100,000 in 2014. So why is the rate so high that it has now surpassed homicide? Part of it is that homicide rates like every other crime rates are down.

According to Centers for Disease Control data:

The homicide rate among persons aged 10–24 years in 2010 was 7.5 per 100,000, the lowest in the 30-year study period. Primary prevention strategies remain critical, particularly among groups at increased risk for homicide.

The difference of one point might not seem like much, but it translates to actual lives affected.

Risk Factors

What are the risk factors for youth to attempt suicide? There are certain characteristics that affect youth. They are as follows according to San Diego-based Up2Us:

  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical problems
  • Defying authority, skipping school, stealing, or damaging property
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Long-lasting negative mood, often along with poor appetite and thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Confused thinking
  • Long-lasting sadness or irritability
  • Extreme highs and lows in mood
  • Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations such as seeing or hearing things that are not really there
  • Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Denial of obvious problems

If you or somebody you know is in a crisis, call the crisis hotlines.

San Diego County Crisis Line: 1-888-724-7240
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

I will add a note about the responding officers. The worst that can happen to an officer is that their training is used in a suicide by officer situation. While his classmates will have to face a dead classmate, San Diego Police will have to counsel those officers.


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