A genuinely shocking headline made waves last month; and then, just as suddenly, disappeared quietly under the water. Self harm- suicide- is the leading cause of death of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 worldwide. Why aren’t we all talking about this?
Suicide in young women- despite being vastly underreported by families and coroners due to the stigma associated with self harm- still surpasses other causes of death such as road injury, pregnancy complications, and disease. Surprisingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has only recently noticed the alarming trend spanning the past decade, previously accounting for maternal mortality as the predominant global crisis for women. While tremendous advances have been made to decrease the instance of death due to pregnancy related mortality, the staggering reality of teenage girls taking their own lives should be enough for the world to take notice and intervene.
So how did we all miss this? Why do headlines about deflated footballs and FIFA scandals dominate the news?
While the report covers six geographical regions, including the USA, the statistics were particularly grim in Southeast Asia, where teenage girls die by suicide 3x more than other leading causes. In Southeast Asia, puberty marks the onset of isolation as girls are taken out of school to work in the home (sometimes forbidden to leave the house at all) and forced into marriage.
Isolation, poverty, gender discrimination, relationship violence, and violent and sexual abuse are not isolated to developing countries. Girls in the USA face similar challenges. The message is loud and clear to teenage girls in Western media: You don’t fit in here. We do not see you. Your thighs shouldn’t touch. Women are decorative.
The headlines are conspicuously quiet when it comes to the reality of self-harm.
Who will stand up for you if no one notices? It’s time to talk about this.
If you or someone you know is considering self harm or has already acted out on these feelings, know that there is help. Call 1 (800) 273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You can also consult a growing list of resources for teens here for more information.