Youth suicide is an immensely complex interplay of social, psychological, neurological, biological and cultural variables. The problem is that these variables carry unequal weights and no single one has been demonstrated to be necessary or sufficient to cause an individual to take their own life. This makes it very difficult to predict whether a young person is likely to die by suicide and therefore, as many schools in Sydney have found out, difficult for others to act in time to prevent it.

Despite all that has been done by successive governments, research shows that suicide remains the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24. Almost a third of young people have experienced suicidal ideation in their lifetime and in an average year 12 classroom, one young person has made a suicide attempt.

In trying to fashion an answer to the question, I am reminded of a young woman I met a decade or so ago. She was just 15 and I’ll call her Lucy. A few months before I met her, she had tried to take her own life.

When she was asked in a public forum, why she made this decision, she told the gathering: “I thought I would never see, hear, or know anything ever again.” So for her, this act seemed to be about problem-solving. Digging deeper, it seemed that her problems were not actually out of the ordinary, there was some conflict at home and a few problems with school and friends. The problem was that Lucy had undiagnosed depression.

A series of psychological autopsy studies over the last few decades, have identified several important risk factors and studies show that 90 per cent of young people who end their lives have a mental disorder at the time of their death, the most common being depression, psychosis and substance abuse disorders.

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– Michael Carr-Gregg, The Sydney Morning Herald

via Alertness to mental disorders key to preventing youth suicides.


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