Today’s successful high school students are increasingly dealing with thoughts of suicide, depression and stress because of the pressures of growing up too fast, according to an annual survey.
“Our survey of students listed in ‘Who’s Who Among American High School Students’ reflects the views and experiences of teen leaders,” said Paul Krouse, publisher of Who’s Who.
The survey questions, given to students said to be in the top 5 percent of U.S. high school students, range in subject from alcohol and drugs to sexual behavior and school violence.
The most surprising results were in the high levels of suicidal thoughts.
The survey revealed that 26 percent of the students had at some time considered committing suicide, and 5 percent of the female students had actually attempted committing suicide. Of those who had considered suicide, 68 percent blamed general depression, and 45 percent blamed school pressures.
The survey also showed that students whose parents are divorced were more likely to consider suicide than students whose parents remained married.
Sexual activity of the students was linked to the likelihood of suicidal thoughts as 38 percent of the students who had engaged in sexual intercourse considered suicide at some time in their lives. By contrast, only 23 percent of students who had not engaged in sexual intercourse considered suicide.
Krouse said that too often many adults dismiss the notion that being a teen-ager is very difficult. However, teen-agers have a lot weighing on their minds, such as how they will afford college, rising crime and their economic futures, she said.
“Students feel a sense of helplessness,” said Alan Hansen, a guidance counselor at Timpview High School. They feel that if they don’t achieve now, then they will never get into school or have a future, he said.
The “top teen-agers” are divided into two groups, Hansen said. The first is a small group of students who have a lot of support from their parents and are easily able to do outstanding work. The second group is students who do not receive needed support but try to do as well as those in the first group.
Hansen said that the second group is the one he worries about because while they tend to do well academically, they frequently suffer emotionally.