His son Tom gave up everything and wouldn't leave his darkened room, according to Gary Nelson, a pastoral counselor in West Virginia. "I was aware that suicide driven by mental illness is a top killer of young people," says Nelson, "We were terrified we could lose him."
Some 2 million U.S. adolescents attempt suicide each year and almost 700,000 receive medical attention for it, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide was the third-leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds.
Karen Stough, a family counselor with a program for struggling teens in Birmingham, Ala., says, "The (suicide) rate is rising in adolescents, and it may be due to biochemical reasons, as the brain is not fully mature until the early 20s. It may be due to hormones, and drugs can throw brain chemistry off. Or, it could be related to the stresses of the everyday world."