Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Teenage girls’ headspace:

The biggest killer of teenage girls is not maternal mortality but suicide says the World Health Organisation.
By Motherpedia
Date: May 29 2015
Editor Rating:

Here’s a terrible statistic you probably were not aware of: the leading cause of death amongst teenage girls worldwide is suicide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

More girls aged between 15 and 19 die from self-harm than from road accidents, diseases or complications of pregnancy.

How did this happen?

To say that the world didn’t notice may not be quite accurate, but it hasn’t been talked about much publicly. Having said that, catch conversations between mothers of teenagers and one of the topics they may often talk about are “mental health issues” amongst their children’s peer group.

The WHO report shows that in every region of the world, other than Africa, suicide is one of the top three causes of death for 15-to-19 year old girls. For boys, the leading killer globally is road injury, followed by violence, with self-harm third.

What is known is that suicide is likely to be underreported also. Often a coroner will not record a death as suicide at the family’s request or to protect the family’s feelings.

Professor Vikram Patel, a psychiatrist who was recently featured in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People for his work in global mental health, says the “aspirational images of romance and love” portrayed in popular and social media and sexual pressure from boys can be a pressure point for teenage girls in a country like Australia.

There is relentless pressure on western girls to look a certain way. Experts like Professor Patel say that teenage boys often compare teenage girls to the women they see in media such as supermodels or the ubiquitous Kim Kardashian who posts endless selfies of her self and her sisters – the latest trend being in waist-slimming corsets.

Dr Amy Chandler, a research fellow at Edinburgh University who specialises in self-harm and suicide, says that western girls are more likely to self-harm than boys because their body is one area where they have control.

Boys might shout, punch a wall, fight; girls are less likely to be outwardly aggressive.

Adolescence is a time when girls feel their choices become restricted: that they must look and behave in certain ways to be accepted. It’s even worse for girls in parts of Asia, Africa or the Middle East who are amongst some of the most disempowered people in the world.

“Gender is a pervasive global issue,” says Professor Patel.

And as the WHO report details, the consequences can be fatal.

* * *

If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal feelings or has poor mental health, please contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800. 

You can access the WHO report here. 

Share This Tweet This Email To Friend
Related Articles
Comedian Russell Brand posted a video lamenting the challenges that…
Read more
Study shows teens who are more active in the evenings…
Read more
What is the best way of equipping your child to…
Read more
Your teenager can be your friend for life if you…
Read more
Cry babies

Dry your eyes!
The newest additions are on their way from the Babies who cry real tears!


Latest Tech Used In Shipping Containers
Read how the shipping industry has revolutionised

Motherpedia cover-2

Win 1 set of a 4-book hardcover illustrated boxed set
Barbara Murray’s new 4-book Sound Stories is perfect for parents and educators and could assist with NAPLAN results

Motherpedia cover (4)

Where to celebrate Oktoberfest Australia
Get ready for this celebration!

Motherpedia cover-4

A Fortnight of Foodie Experiences at East Village
A taste of East Village. What's in it for me?

Globber my too fix up cover

We Try: Globber My TOO Fix Up
A scooter that grows with your child

Throw a winning cricket pitch

3 Steps to a Winning Backyard Cricket Pitch
Ex-Adelaide Oval legend curator Les Burdett shares his tips for getting your backyard cricket pitch test match ready this summer

A bike that follows your kids life cycle - motherpedia - cover

A Bike That Follows Your Kids Life Cycle
Check out the Bunzi 2-in-1 gradual balance bike!

Moonlight lifestyle

Moonlight Cinema to bring…
Moonlight Cinema announces brand new Western Sydney venue

Screen shot 2019-11-26 at 8.29.12 am

Your Magical Christmas Wonderland…
Adventure park is about to light up the night sky with its "Christmas Festival of Lights"

Screen shot 2019-11-21 at 11.11.36 am

The Preston Market Gets…
It's time to feel pumped up for the holiday season!


Bunnings team members get…
Help raise funds by buying a snag or donating at your local store.