May 26, 2013

Ending the silence about suicide

A 16-year-old's death last month -- in a state where the threat to young people is especially alarming -- has loved ones and other Mainers calling for a greater willingness to talk about mental illness, depression and pain.

By Gillian Graham
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 4)

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Shapleigh resident Rebecca Liberty struggles with her emotions recently as she holds a picture of her daughter Haley Plaisted, who took her own life April 8.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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Haley Plaisted’s mother, Rebecca Liberty of Shapleigh, accompanied by her boyfriend, David Pillsbury, watches as balloons rise in tribute to the daughter she lost early last month. Liberty is holding a portrait of Haley that was created by the teen’s classmates at Sanford High School.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


From 2005 to 2009, there were 901 suicides in Maine, including 93 among people younger than 24.

The average number of youth suicides in Maine from 2005 to 2009 was 19 per year.

Suicide was the second leading cause of death for Mainers ages 15-34.

More male youths died by suicide than female. Of every five suicides, four were males.

From 2005 to 2009, the leading method of youth suicide was suffocation, which accounted for 46 percent of suicide deaths. During that time period, a firearm was used in 40 percent of youth suicides.

13 percent of high school seniors have seriously considered suicide; 9 percent of high school seniors have planned their suicide; and 8 percent have attempted suicide.

Source: Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention


Talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead

Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun

Talking about a specific suicide plan

Feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

Feeling trapped, desperate or needing to escape from an intolerable situation

Having the feeling of being a burden to others

Feeling humiliated

Having intense anxiety and/or panic attacks

Losing interest in things, or losing the ability to experience pleasure


Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family and others

Acting irritable or agitated

Showing rage, or talking about seeking revenge for being victimized or rejected, whether or not the situations the person describes seem real

Individuals who show such behavior should be evaluated for possible suicide risk by a medical doctor or mental health professional.

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


In Maine, immediate help is available 24 hours a day by calling (888) 568-1112.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by calling (800) 273-8255.

If you need immediate help, call 911.

Teenagers with depression can be argumentative and unpleasant, which "makes it harder to keep the focus on the child and what they need because it seems like behavioral problems," Haas said.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention created films about depression in teens to show at schools and to adults, which she said have been effective in starting conversations and educating people about the problem.

"We need to do a lot more educating about the role of depression. It is treatable," Haas said. "The really difficult part about it is it doesn't mean it always prevents suicide. It's not a guarantee that we can get a young person on a different course, but treatment is the best course."

Marley of the Maine Suicide Prevention Program agrees.

"The majority of young people who attempt suicide and get the help they need go on to not get back into another suicide crisis again."

That's why, Marley said, it's so important to make sure "if someone is feeling suicidal or considering making an attempt on their life, they get serious intervention help to move beyond that place where their life isn't working."

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

Twitter: grahamgillian


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Additional Photos

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Family members and friends of Haley Plaisted release balloons on her 17th birthday, three days after her suicide last month, near a friend’s house in Springvale. Loved ones are still struggling to find answers for why she chose to end her life.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer


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