Teen suicides on the rise
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
3/06/13 at 7:45 AM
Seven Tulsa area teens have died by suicide in the past year, a number that local mental health advocates find alarming.
And those are just the ones they have heard about.
"It's more than I can remember before," said Mike Brose, executive director of Mental Health Association in Tulsa. "We're very concerned about it."
Family & Children’s Services COPES is a
24/7 hotline that people can call for themselves
or for someone else experiencing a psychiatric
emergency. The number is 918-744-4800.
1,045: Total calls by or about kids in 2012
484: Calls out of those that were suicidal (45.92 percent)
321: Calls out of those that had a history of suicide attempts (30.46 percent)
Source: Family and Children's Services
Last weekend a Jenks middle-schooler committed suicide, becoming the seventh student to do so in the last 12 months.
The string of suicides began last March when a Bishop Kelley student killed herself. Since then, students at Coweta, Holland Hall, Owasso and two from Inola schools have taken their own lives, while a 13-year-old Stillwater student did so while at school.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens in Oklahoma. And the state's youth suicide rate is 9.4 per 100,000 population, above the national rate of 7.3, figures show.
Brose said it's impossible to know why there has been a spike in local teen suicides.
"We know that depression is very common in adolescence," he said. "One of the symptoms of severe depression is having suicidal thoughts. Beyond that, we don't really know."
Every child's life circumstances are different from one another, said Faith Crittenden, clinical supervisor for Family & Children's Services' school-based children's mental health program.
"Teenagers developmentally don't understand that suicide is final because they have this sense of invincibility," she said. "What they're doing is creating this permanent solution to a temporary problem because they just can't see outside that adolescent way of thinking."
School-based services provide more opportunity to identify students at risk of suicide or other mental health issues.
"It's hard for schools because their charge is to provide academic training," Brose said. "Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, schools have become, by default, kind of secondary social service agencies."
In Tulsa, calls to Family & Children's Services' COPES (Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services) hotline on behalf of suicidal children jumped 31 percent in 2012 from the previous year.
"The fact of the matter is you're not going to be able to prevent every event from happening," Brose said. "But we can hedge our bets much more effectively to identify some of these kids and intervene earlier in a more preventative way."
Crittenden said suicide is a community problem that deserves a community response. She suggests that every individual in a child's life, ranging from parents to clergy, should talk with them about suicide, particularly when one hits close to home.
"Some people think, 'If I say it, I'm implanting that thought in that kid's head,' " Crittenden said. "We just need to be more involved in what's going on with our kids."
Possible warning signs of suicide
Source: Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
- Statements that convey a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness or preoccupation with death.
- Behaviors that are different from the way your child acted in the past, especially things like talking about death or suicide, taking dangerous risks, withdrawing from activities or sports or using alcohol or drugs.
- Feelings that seem different from the past like irritability, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest.
- Situations that can serve as trigger points for suicidal behaviors - loss or death; getting in trouble at home, in school, or with the law; or impending changes where the child feels scared or unprepared.
How to talk with your child about suicide:
Suicide can happen to any kid in any family at any time. Talking about suicide can open up communication about a topic often kept a secret. Here are some tips:
Source: Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
- Pick a time when you have the best chance of getting your child's attention. Sometimes a car ride assures you of a captive, attentive audience. Or a suicide that has received media attention can provide the perfect opportunity to bring up the topic.
- Think about what you want to say ahead of time and rehearse a script if necessary.
- Be honest. If this is a hard subject for you to talk about, admit it. By acknowledging your discomfort, you give your child permission to acknowledge his/her discomfort, too.
- Ask for your child's response. Be direct.
- Listen to what your child has to say. You've asked the questions, so simply consider your child's answers. If you hear something that worries you, be honest about that.
- Don't overreact or underreact. Overreaction will close off any future communication on the subject. Underreacting, especially in relation to suicide, is often just a way to make ourselves feel better.
- Any thoughts or talk of suicide should be revisited. Suicide is an attempt to solve a problem that seems impossible to solve in any other way. Ask about the problem that created the suicidal thoughts. This can make it easier to bring up again in the future.
Original Print Headline: Teen suicides on the rise
Kim Archer 918-581-8315