Teen Suicide: Parents Guard Your Daughters

Being downcast, gloomy, or taciturn may not be a phase

Posted Apr 24, 2016

The newest suicide rates are just out, and the news is horrifying. Government statisticians compared 1999 with 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, and the results suggest that an epidemic of suicide among the nation’s young teenage girls is in course.

Suicide for women in the whole population 1999-2014 was up 45 percent. This is bad enough. A doubling of suicide among women of all ages and races during that fifteen-year period is unprecedented – and this when “antidepressants” have never been more widely available!

But suicide among females aged 10-14 over that period was up 200 percent. It tripled, from 0.5 suicides per 100,000 population to 1.5 per 100,000. This is the horrifying bit.

It gets even worse: among “non-hispanic white females” in the age group 10-14 suicide was up 240 percent.

Suicide among women of older ages was more in line with the national increase – and suicide among women over 75 dropped 11 percent. But that 200 percent figure is like a big red light flashing in the night.

By contrast, suicide among males of all ages rose only 16 percent in 1999-2014, and among those vulnerable young teenage boys “only” 37 percent. Taken by itself, this figure too would be ghastly, but it pales it contrast with the wave of suicide sweeping teenage girls.

What is going on here?

We normally associate suicide with severe depressive illness, or melancholic depression.  Yet melancholia, with its heavy genetic component, tends to be fairly stable over time.  There has certainly not been a 240 percent increase in life-threatening depression among teenage girls.

This huge increase seems more likely to be the result of what used to be called “epidemic hysteria.” The term hysteria has now gone out of fashion, because the women’s movement, rightly so, perceived it to be demeaning and it vanished from the US psychiatric vocabulary in 1980 with the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM series.

Yet pathological ideas can spread contagiously, of that there is no doubt.  And girls have always been more vulnerable than boys to epidemic vomiting and fainting in the schoolyard.  Suddenly, everybody starts fainting. There’s panic. The public health authorities rush in. No toxin is ever found. And the next day everybody is fine.

Such behavior represents the epidemic spread of the notion that, all of a sudden, you as a thirteen-year-old girl, are dizzy, or sick to your stomach, or whatever. The idea spreads contagiously. These epidemics are as old as history, and are certainly not limited to teenage females – though this age group is probably the most vulnerable to suggestion.

But we’re talking here about far deadlier forms of suggestion: The idea arrives in your personal-device-driven culture that it’s time to kill yourself. Because everybody else is talking about it. All of a sudden despair and hopelessness arrive on the silver-wings of suggestion. It’s easy enough to suggest kids into a kind of no-exit idea: Everything is hopeless. Bye-bye.

The reverse of this will to collapse would have been the will to survive among Jews in Nazi concentration camps. For many, this resoluteness spread in a kind of collective way.  Despite circumstances that would have driven many to suicide, Jews in Nazi camps were often full of resilience and the lust to live. And after the War, when doctors investigated their mental states in the internment camps in Germany where many were lodged until their final settlement in the United States or Palestine, a majority did not have gross psychiatric pathology.  They were mental winners – just to take this term that seems to have infested our own political culture.

So, if the life cult invested Holocaust survivors, the death cult invests these young girls as they stride blithely along, their heads buried in their personal devices. But the messages circulating in this perfervid youth culture seem to be toxic: Do like Kurt Cobain and make yourself away. What’s the point.

Parents: You have to know this is going on. The word is spreading epidemically in the social-media culture. Your daughters who seem downcast, gloomy and taciturn may not just be going through a phase. They may have something else in mind.