Adolescents often struggle with a number of concerns such as whether they will find meaning in their lives and whether the future is promising for them. Adolescents may feel isolated, lonely and powerless at times. Adolescents also may worry about school performance, relationships, sexuality and body image. For an adolescent, rejection from a romantic partner may be devastating. All of these concerns are magnified by the general insecurity as well as the hormonal changes that are common in adolescence.
Although most adolescents transition to adulthood without experiencing serious psychological or behavioral disorders, some adolescents who experience profound hopelessness and depression commit suicide.
Suicide is the No. 2 cause of death for adolescents in Hawaii, according to the state Department of Health. In addition to suicide, many adolescents engage in self-destructive behaviors such as fighting, using drugs and engaging in dangerous, risk-taking activities.
The Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that Hawaii high school students were more likely to have seriously contemplated or attempted suicide compared to students nationally. Untreated depression is the No. 1 risk factor for suicide among adolescents. Other risk factors include substance use, family conflict, bullying, sexual identity issues and a history of sexual or physical abuse.
Every adolescent who commits suicide in Hawaii forever alters the lives of family members and friends. Guilt is a prominent reaction of parents to the death of a son or daughter by suicide. In addition to the guilt are feelings of being blamed and stigmatized by others. Parents may find that the death of a child by suicide does not receive the same level of community support that an accidental or illness-related death commands. Parental grief may be complicated by feelings of abandonment and rejection by their son or daughter who committed suicide. Many parents who have lost a child to suicide may experience thoughts of suicide themselves.
If you have lost a loved one to suicide and are feeling depressed, angry, anxious or overwhelmed, seek professional help as soon as possible. The Access Line is a 24-hour crisis line provided by the Department of Health that can be reached by dialing toll-free (800) 753-6879.
Hospice Maui and Mental Health America/Maui will be providing a free support group for family members and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide beginning at 6 p.m. June 21. The six-week-long support group will meet at Hospice Maui, 400 Mahalani St. in Wailuku. The support group will be co-facilitated by Erin Cisneros and Leslie Hiraga. Mrs. Hiraga's son took his life in 2005.
To register for Hospice Maui's Suicide Survivors Group, call Cisneros at 269-4054.
* Erin Malia Cisneros is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and a lecturer at the University of Hawaii Maui College. She specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety, suicide survivors, substance use, grief and loss, and childhood and adolescent disorders.