"Our students are dying because they are not equipped to handle situations created by adults — situations that leave a child feeling abandoned and with a broken heart," says Garner, now a Washington elementary school art teacher and author. "Our students today face the same obstacles I faced 30 years ago."
"With this population, it's the perfect storm for life to be extra difficult," says Lauren Anderson, executive director of the Josh Anderson Foundation in Vienna, Va., named after her 17-year-old brother who killed himself in 2009. "Based on the development of the brain, they are more inclined to risky behavior, to decide in that moment."
Carmen Garner, 40, used to walk across busy streets near his home in Springfield, Mass. when he was a teen, hoping to get hit by a car to escape life with drug addicted parents.
That's very different from how even a depressed adult might weigh the downsides of a decision like suicide, especially how it will likely affect those left behind. And sometimes life is so traumatic, suicide just seems like the best option for a young person.
A study of pediatric hospitals released last May found admissions of patients ages 5 to 17 for suicidal thoughts and actions more than doubled from 2008 to 2015. The group at highest risk for suicide are white males between 14 and 21.
And while some adults can tune out the constant scroll of depressing social media posts, it is the rare teen who even tries.
Experts and teens cite myriad reasons, including spotty mental health screening, poor access to mental health services and resistance among young men and people of color to admit they have a problem and seek care. Then there's the host of well-documented and hard to solve societal issues, including opioid-addicted parents, a polarized political environment and poverty that persists in many areas despite a near-record-low unemployment rate.
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