Teens Feel Stress During Tough Economic Times

Phones at the Lifeline ring all day. Callers threaten suicide, and express worry and fear about pregnancy and abusive relationships. And they’re all teenagers.

An article on the website of Arizona’s KNXV-TV reports many of the teens who call are struggling with issues related to the nation’s economic doldrums:

According to Nikki Kontz, a social worker and clinical coordinator for Teen Lifeline, a quarter of the phone calls that come into the hotline are suicide or depression-related.

Last year, she said, Teen Lifeline received approximately 7,400 phone calls. This year, she said she expects the number of calls to increase by more than ten percent, and she attributes some of the increase to the economy.

Kids don’t always understand the cause of their feelings, and may not realize they’re being affected by jobs and the economy, but many notice changes in family dynamics. During financially stressful times, parents need to be especially open with their kids. Lack of information is often scarier than if parents are honest about the family’s challenges.

Psychologist Says Cultural Clashes Responsible for High Rate of Suicide Attempts Among Latina Youth

After a quarter century of studying the high rate of suicide attempts among Latina teens, Washington University psychologist Dr. Luis Zayas says cultural conflicts between traditional parents and their Americanized daughters may be to blame.

Dr. Zayas’ insights were the subject of an Oct. 20 article by Courtney Yager of CNN.com:

One out of every seven Latina teens, or 14 percent, attempts suicide according to a 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of high school students. And Latina high school students have higher attempted suicide rates than white non-Hispanic (7.7 percent) or black non-Hispanic (9.9 percent) girls their age, the CDC reports. …

[Zayas] says the typical Latina teen who attempts suicide is 14 or 15, the daughter of immigrant parents, lives in a low-income setting and is caught in an intense battle with her mother over Latino and American cultures.

Research conducted by Zayas has found the girls’ parents hold strictly to traditional Latino values, while teens who grow up in America learn “very different models about what girls should do, can do and are permitted to do.”

Study Says Phone Intervention can Help Teens Quit Smoking

A telephone conversation designed to help teenagers to quit smoking may be effective in helping them achieve that goal, according to a new study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute.

Researchers studied 2,151 teen smokers and 745 non-smokers.
If a teen said he wanted to quit smoking, the researcher would offer tips on motivations and behavior, but only in a nonjudgmental way.
Teen smokers who had such conversations achieved a 4 percent better success rate than did members of the the control group.

Researchers considered the improvements small but significant. “There is clearly a need to take the next step to see how this smoking intervention could be improved,” study leader Arthur Peterson said.

The study appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Experts Advise Openness on Topic of Youth Suicide

More people are speaking out about suicide at colleges and high schools. In the past, most adults have been reluctant to talk to young people about suicide, but more effective communication is now understood to be a better means of addressing this major health threat.

A number of states, including California, New Jersey and Tennessee, require all public schools to develop a suicide prevention strategy.
Several organizations, such as the Alive Campaign and SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), now provide programs and information for schools and colleges.
A 21-year-old student from Columbia College in Chicago made a film about his experiences with bipolar disorder and suicide attempts, which he now shows to students all over the country.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 10 to 14-year-olds in the United States, according to the medical journal Pediatrics. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 16 percent of young people consider suicide, and nearly 15 percent of teenagers think they are going to die young.

Experts now believe that parents should talk to their children about suicide the same way they discuss other serious issues.

NY Times Says Suburban Youth Turning to Heroin

Heroin abuse is increasing among wealthy suburban youth, according to a report in the New York Times.

There has been an increase in the number of people under 25 years old who enter detoxification and rehabilitation centers for heroin abuse. Another indication is that an increased number of young people are dying from heroin overdoses.

In 2000, 59 people ages 19 to 25 entered detoxification centers in New York’s Nassau County because of heroin abuse.
In 2008, 458 young heroin abusers entered such programs.
At one New York suburban substance abuse center, 10 percent of young people admitted in 2000 cited heroin addiction as the reason. This year the heroin admission rate was about 30 percent.

Young people nationwide have been experimenting with prescription opiate painkillers such as OxyContin and methadone. These drugs are chemically similar to heroin. What some experts are saying is that affluent young people have now simply decided to use heroin partly because it is so much cheaper and more widely available, compared to prescription drugs. For example, a bag of heroin can sell for five dollars compared to $40 a pill for OxyContin.

Symptoms that a young person might be experimenting with heroin include listlessness, sleeping at all hours, secretiveness, apathy, lowered academic achievement, thinness, pinpoint pupils, bluish fingernails, and loss of interest in everyday activities.