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Youth suicide: The Silent Epidemic

By Cathy Thomas Brownfield

Parents hold their new babies and hope that they will be able to provide what their children are going to need, physically, emotionally, materially. New parents make a lot of mistakes with the first child because this is such a huge change from everything they have ever known. However, parents are parents for the rest of their lives. And though they anticipate that they will get through the child-rearing years with relatively few bumps in the road, often the road becomes rocky and the challenges overwhelming.

Good parents keep putting one foot in front of the other, trying to improve the family’s situation, at least providing the necessities of life. Sometimes they have to be away from family to do the providing. And when something bad happens, sometimes they blame themselves for it. Parents just don’t always see the warning signs that something is not right. Sometimes they are so exhausted, distracted with troubles as they try to find solutions.

With this in mind, the goal of this article is to alert parents to the “Silent Epidemic.” It can happen to anyone, in any family. It’s being reported by news sources like the Columbus Dispatch, The New York Times, PBS News Hour, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Youth suicide is on the rise and social media, mental health issues are playing a role,” reads one headline. WebMD reports that the youth suicide rate has reached a 20-year high.

Why?

Can anyone know for certain? Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24, says The Jason Foundation. CDC says ages 10-34. The Jason Foundation cited data that states there are 3,069 suicide attempts daily in grades 9-12. Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs: suicide threats; depression; anger, increased irritability; lack of interest; sudden increase/decrease in appetite; sudden changes in appearance; dwindling academic performance; preoccupation with death and suicide; previous suicide attempts, and final arrangements.

A short explanation about The Jason Foundation. It is named for a 16-year-old boy who took his own life in 1997. He was a good student, loved sports, had a lot of friends, was always up for going places and trying new things, his father wrote in an open letter to visitors to the website. The Jason Flatt Act was passed in Tennessee in 2001, making mandatory that all teachers had to complete two hours of youth suicide training each year in order to be licensed to teach in that state. Ohio passed the legislation in 2012. There are about 20 states that have passed it, according to the foundation’s web site.

The CDC (www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention) provides strategies to use to prevent youth violence, which includes suicide. Promote a supportive, healthy family environment. Provide quality education early in life. Strengthen the youth’s skills. Connect youth to caring adults and activities. Create protective community environments. Intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risk.

The highest at risk include youth who are involved in child welfare and juvenile justice systems; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender; American Indian and Alaskan Native, and military service members.

Everyone in the community is a stakeholder in today’s youth who are tomorrow’s leaders.

The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. The Help Network of Northeast Ohio can be reached by dialing 211.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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