It can sometimes be hard being a teenager, but what some might not realize is just how hard it is.
According to a new report by Kids Help Phone one in five Canadian teenagers seriously considered suicide in the past year.
“What we’re struggling with in my view is the pressures that young people feel to match up to the perfect image,” Saskatoon Crisis Intervention service executive director Rita Field, said.
“I think these are tough times for young people. There’s so many pressures in terms of achievement and being motivated to do all kinds of things and having many things of their plate.”
The report surveyed 1,319 teens age 13 to 18 across the country and found those who experience body image issues or violence are at least twice as likely to seriously consider taking their own life.
Stark statistics – but not a surprise for Field whose seen an increase in youth calls to the Saskatoon Crisis Intervention hotline by 13-percent.
“We’re responding to 25,000 calls a year and half of those involve children under the age of 16,” Field explained.
The report also shows girls are twice as likely to have seriously considered suicide compared to boys.
Field disagrees with this statistic,
“I think girls tend to talk more anyway or reach out so I think that’s under-reporting for boys,” Field said.
“I think boys would actually be closer to girls from our experience here.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) says in suicide rates in northern Saskatchewan are three to six times the national average, and FSIN is working on a plan to decrease those numbers.
“The first things kids need to feel is valued and talk to someone who cares about who they are,” vice-chief Robert Merasty said.
“The second thing is to really start to give them an outlet and build their confidence and self-esteem.”
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Anna Felstrom says it’s imperative for adults to be a supportive anchor for teens who may feel influenced by their peers.
“We know that if you have suicidal friends, if you belong to a community where people are thinking of suicide, then it puts you at risk to be suicidal because you maybe start to think things that you wouldn’t have before.”
Felstrom said adults need to open up and talk to teens. Acknowledge how they’re feeling and have authentic conversations.
“Pay attention to that teenager, try to form a relationship with them. Help them to understand you are a supportive person and you’re there when they need to talk.”
The report came out the same week as World Suicide Prevention Day, which falls on Sept. 10.