Waushara County Health News

Adolescent suicide prevention

In the United States, suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death. The suicide rate in Wisconsin is four times the homicide rate. Each year, over 700 people die by suicide in Wisconsin. Waushara County has had four deaths by suicide since January 2019. Suicide is not only a national crisis but a local crisis. Suicide is hard to talk about, but people must continue the local discussion on how to prevent community members from dying by suicide.

While suicide rates are a problem among all age groups, adolescents are especially vulnerable. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 to 24-year-olds. One out of every fifteen high school students report attempting suicide each year. Recently, the amount of deaths by suicide among adolescents has increased. This has been correlated the release of a popular show among teens, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. The show depicts the life of a teenager who decided to take her own life. Soon after its release, many warned that the show’s depiction of suicide may be harmful to adolescents who comprised its target audience. A recent study shows these warnings may have been right. “In the month following the show’s debut in March 2017, there was a 28.9 percent increase in suicide among Americans ages 10-17.” This study has prompted Netflix to delete the graphic suicide scene. The study shows the powerful effect media might have on adolescents.

Here are 13 warning signs for suicide provided by the American Academy of Family Physicians: Talking about death and/or suicide in a casual way; saying they wish they hadn’t been born; asking about death or how to commit violent acts; talking about leaving or going away; saying they won’t need things soon; not wanting to be around people anymore; seeming sad and remote, instead of happy and social; becoming more angry or edgy; losing interest in hobbies or events; having trouble focusing; showing changes in normal routine, such as sleeping, eating, or grooming. These can lead to being sick or having stomach, head, or body aches; acting out in harmful ways, such as drinking, using drugs, or hurting themselves; getting in trouble with the law.

According to the American Psychological Association, these factors may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, actions or behaviors: Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and other mood disorders; alcohol and substance use; impulsive behaviors; history of trauma or abuse; family history of suicide; previous suicide attempt(s).

There are ways people can help prevent suicide among adolescents. The most important thing is to listen. Take what your loved one says seriously. If your child says that they are going to hurt or kill themselves, don’t say that they are doing it for attention—If your child tells you, listen and get help. Keeping a secret about someone contemplating suicide may lead to a preventable death. Always get help right away rather than waiting.

Listening alone is not enough; people must listen and empathize. Adolescence can be stressful and challenging, full of difficult or unexpected events. Sometimes little things like a fight or a breakup can be a big deal for the youth experiencing it. Taking what your loved one says seriously also means understanding and sympathizing with them. Minimizing what they have to say may only worsen their anxiety or depression surrounding the issue. If your child shares with you that they are contemplating suicide, do not try to overcompensate by being overprotective. Rather, help them maintain their friendships and relationships with loved ones. Offer to spend extra time with them or encourage them to do things they like. Sometimes, smothering can be just as dangerous as ignoring.

If your child shares with you that they are contemplating suicide, make safety a priority. Remove all items from the house that might be used to cause harm. Most importantly: get help. Make sure that your child is not left alone or does not feel as if they are alone. Listening empathetically, sympathetically, and compassionately can help someone know they are not alone. Sometimes all that is needed is to talk to someone.

The following are resources that caregivers or those who may be contemplating suicide have available to them: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); You Matter, a safe space for youth by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; The Trevor Project, a Lifeline organization for LGBTQ+ youth: 1-866-488-7386; Active Minds, a resource for college students; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a resource for advocates.

The Waushara County Health Department hopes that you will join them in helping to prevent suicide among our adolescents. If you would like to get involved in suicide prevention efforts in Waushara County, reach out at 920-787-6590 for more information about the community coalition, REACH Waushara.