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Amber Portwood drama spotlights link between stress, suicidal behavior

MTV "Teen Mom" Amber Portwood Charged with Two Felony Counts for Domestic Violence and Battery
Amber Portwood MTV

(CBS) Is teenage motherhood too much for Amber Portwood? The troubled star of the hit TV series "Teen Mom" reportedly was hospitalized in Indiana after threatening to commit suicide on Tuesday.

Police in Anderson, Ind., said they had been called to a residence where Portwood was staying, the Washington Post reported, citing a statement made to the gossip site Radar Online. "According to the caller, Portwood was depressed and threatening to end her life," the statement said. "The victim, who did not appear to be injured, was transported to a local medical facility."

Portwood, 21, is being evaluated at St. Johns Hospital in Anderson, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Portwood has had her share of trouble, including a rocky relationship with the father of her daughter, Leah. The gossip site TMZ reported on May 11 that Portwood had lost custody of Leah, and on June 11 the Daily Mail reported that she had pleaded guilty to two counts of domestic battery.

Whatever triggered Portwood's alleged breakdown, psychologists say stressful life events are a common cause of suicide and self-destructive behavior.

"Any unbearable stress can be a contributing factor," Dr. Pamela Cantor, a clinical psychologist in Natick, Mass. and the past president of the American Association of Suicidology, told CBS News. "Losing a job, losing a home, losing custody of a child, finding out your husband has been cheating - sometimes people are trying hard to hold on."

Cantor, who has no first-hand knowledge of Portwood's situation, said that even the stresses of new motherhood - especially single motherhood - can be too much to bear.

Did Portwood really intend to kill herself? That's not clear. But Dr. Cantor said women sometimes "attempt suicide" as a cry for help.

"Men are not used to asking for help," Dr. Cantor said. "And men tend to choose more lethal means, like firearms. Women often use pills, which allow room for rescue."

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in people between the ages of 15 and 24. Overall, suicide is the seventh-leading cause of death in men and the fifteenth-leading cause of death in women.

The National Institute of Mental Health has more on suicide.

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