Existential Depression and Suicide in Gifted Individuals

Our community recently suffered a tragic loss when a brilliant young man took his life. Existential Depression is very common among gifted individuals. In a survey of 5,000 high achieving teens listed in Who's Who Among High School Students, 31% had contemplated suicide and 4% had attempted suicide. The most common reasons given for wanting to end their lives were: 86% feelings of personal worthlessness, 81% feelings of isolation and loneliness, 81% pressure to achieve, and 61% fear of failure. The most common time for teens to commit suicide in is the 'after-school' period and many teens mask their feelings.

If there's a child you're worried about, please check out the resources below. Often children may feel more comfortable talking to a professional with special expertise in dealing with gifted social and emotional issues. SENG has an article library and many other links are provided below.

SENG: Articles & Resources - Existential depression in Gifted
Letter and Resources from Betty Meckstroth
More Resources
NASP Resources
Hoagies'Gifted: Depression and Suicide


  1. Here's another helpful article online: http://psych.wisc.edu/henriques/papers/Jackson.pdf It's titled "Depressive Disorder in High Gifted Adolescents"

  2. Omaha Ne. mom11:14 AM

    Unfortunatly I am reading this after my 15 year old son put a shotgun in his mouth Thanksgiving day. he always questioned his friends about the meaning of life and had deep discussions with them about things they had never thought of. WHY IS THERE NOT STORIES ON OPRAH OR MAJOR NEWS PROGRAMS ABOUT THESE KIDS? He was talking to a therapist who thought he didnt have a care in the world and was impressed on how he spoke on the doctors level.He was very intelligent and popular, why didnt his therapist give us an article like this to read?

  3. Our hearts go out to you.

    And you're right. Why aren't there more stories on Oprah or the news? The organization SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) formed after the suicide of a gifted high school student.

    Please feel free to contact us off list, and let us know if we can help you in any way.

    These bright young people can cover up signs of depression so well in front of their parents, but families knew about these issues, they might be able to detect warning signs sooner.

  4. So thankful for the Internet and informative sites like this one as I begin to unravel my own issues and see that I'm not 'mentally ill' but that my giftedness comes with some drawbacks like sensual and emotional OE and existential depression. I wish that someone had understood and explained these things to me. . . say 4 or 5 suicide attempts ago, and I wish there were more therapists practicing who specialized or even understood the special needs of gifted individuals.

  5. Thanks for writing, ravyn. Let us know (off list is OK) if you we can recommend a counselor in your area who has experience with gifted issues.

    We have had a number of students tell us that it really made a big difference in whether they understood their issues.

  6. Anonymous6:06 AM

    There are not more articles on this subject, because people are not comfortable discussing it and do not understand it. To truly understand it means a shift in perspective. An enormous shift that would bring the entirety of our little 'worlds' crashing down in a painful mess. Believe me, I know. Existential depression is one thing, but when it hits in combination with emotional isolation and builds over time, its the worst thing in the world.