Suicide is an International Problem, therefore lets explore what is a Suicide Pact
It’s often said that “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” When you tell a child who is tortured by negative feelings that this is a truth, they may scoff at the simplicity of the statement. After all, no one can know the feelings of depression, degradation and torment that a teenager may feel when they’ve reached the point where they might consider ending their lives. That is, unless it’s another kid in the same situation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24, resulting in over 4600 deaths per year. And another 157,000 children in that age group receive emergency care in the United States each year for self-inflicted wounds. The problem is not just centered in the United States, of course. According to the World Report on Violence and Health, self-inflicted injuries are the fourth leading cause of death worldwide for those between the ages of 15-44.
How do People Unite in Suicidal Misery?
When children unite in their misery, they may set up a pact to commit suicide together, with the intent of ending their suffering. Unfortunately, the very fact that someone else understands their pain may cause them to carry through with their intent. In fact, the same peer pressure that once inspired them to feel so miserable, may now inspire them to join together to end it all. This is the problem with the suicide pact – it’s hard to get out of one once such a horrendous decision is made. The definition of a suicide pact is that more than one person agrees that they will die together, but the circumstances of the actual death are often hard to determine after the fact.
Suicide pact stories often take on the dimensions of a made-for-TV movie. Take for instance the situation of three young people from Norwood, Pennsylvania, one of whom appeared to join the “pact” at the very last moment. According to news reports, Vanessa Dowart, had stayed home from school on the day of the tragedy but didn’t plan to be involved in a multi-person suicide.
When she met two friends who had made a pact to die by being hit by a train, Dowart apparently joined in at the last moment. Vanessa and Gina Gentile were struck and killed by a train while the friend who was originally going to be part of the suicide pact stood by screaming at them to get off the tracks.
One of the many aspects of suicide pacts that some people find confusing is that parents often claim they didn’t know their children were depressed. This may seem strange to those who have never been around depressed teens, but children are often masters of deception. They may seem to be happy and cheerful, but can be hiding their problems under a veneer of cheerfulness.
The CDC has a list of risk factors for suicide including:
- a history of alcohol or drug abuse,
- stressful life events or loss and
- exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
It’s obviously crucial for parents to monitor the friendships of their children.
Suicide pacts are often a result of bullying. In 2011, two young girls from a rural town in Minnesota committed suicide during a sleepover. The girls, Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz, left suicide notes and hung themselves. Apparently both girls had been bullied in school and made the decision to end their torture permanently.
Another form of suicide pact is the murder suicide pact. The case of two California teens who were convicted of murdering the girl’s mother demonstrates how delusional people can be when they develop a suicide pact. Sixteen year old Tylar Witt imagined that her love for her 19-year-old boyfriend, Steven Colver, was a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story. But in actuality, her affair with Colver was illegal, and her mother, Joanne Witt, made every effort to separate the two teens and even reported Colver to the police for statutory rape. Afraid of being separated, the teens decided to kill themselves. But first, they would have to get rid of Tylar’s mother, who would interfere with their plans. After murdering Joanne Witt, the two teens tried to carry through with their suicide pact but were apprehended before they could do so.
This is a perfect example of how kids can delude themselves into believing that by joining with another person they can escape from the troubles of this world. This type of delusion supplements the feeling that another person understands them. As a result, when they decide to kill themselves, they are part of something bigger, a romantic delusion that can have catastrophic results.
How the Internet has Changed Suicidal Ideation
The Internet has changed the nature of suicide. While in some ways, it has proven to be helpful, in other ways it can be a real problem. The National Center for Biotechnology Information describes Internet suicide pacts as being a rare but growing phenomenon. While suicide pacts represent only 1% of total suicides, the fact that people from around the world can connect and decide to kill themselves is a future issue. The NCBI finds that people who decide to get involved in suicide pacts frequently suffer from “similar delusional beliefs.” Using various Internet sites, potential suicides find ways to join with others of like mind, even if those people are far away. Again, it is the responsibility of parents to monitor the Web sites their children are using.
There are online suicide pact forums that allow kids to post about their feelings. The nonprofit organization, BlueLight is a site where people with drug problems can post about ongoing issues and receive help and guidance. The Suicide Forum enables those who are experiencing a crisis to connect with others who may be experiencing the same problems. The site requires a log-in and the posts are confidential. This forum is described as a “pro-life” forum, and no discussion of assisted suicide or Right to Suicide discussions are tolerated.
But be wary – if you are monitoring your children for depression, there are also suicide pact websites where they can actually find information about how to commit suicide. If you suspect that your child is suffering from depression severe enough to consider suicide, you might want to closely monitor their Web surfing habits and their social media habits to be sure they aren’t joining together with others who believe suicide is the answer.
Warning Signs of Suicide
What should you do if your child is suicidal or is considering becoming involved in a suicide pact? First of all, know the warning signs. The non-profit Web site suicide.org has a comprehensive list of Suicide Warning Signs. If you suspect that your child or his/her friends are considering suicide, bring up the topic and discuss it with them in a careful, loving manner. Help Guide has some good advice on how to bring up the discussion. Their article on Suicide Prevention includes Common Misconceptions about Suicide and Dos and Don’ts for Discussing Suicidal Behavior.
Where to go for Help
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention discusses specific dilemmas such as what to do if a friend makes you promise not to tell anyone they’re suicidal, or what to do if a friend refuses to get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also provides information about who to call for help, when to call, and what happens after you call. They have help centers that focus on various groups such as survivors of suicide attempts, veterans, and most important, young adults.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to be sure your child is safe and secure. You must observe their behavior and scrutinize their activities, particularly if you think they and their friends might be at risk of contemplating suicide. Though you may feel strange about “butting in,” it’s crucial that you be there for them, to take away the allure of a potential suicide pact, to protect them from friends with problems, and to ensure that they get the help they need.