April 10, 2013

Our View: Hoping for healing in wake of teen's suicide

We may never know exactly why Kitty McGuire took her own life, but closure is still possible.

 

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Kitty McGuire’s suicide understandably has her friends, relatives and her hometown struggling for an explanation. The 13-year-old left no note; authorities have requested the password to her iPod in search of a possible final message that could provide information.

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Kitty McGuire liked being in the middle of a group. Raised in a close-knit family presided over by her grandparents, she was brought up with her brother alongside their three uncles; relatives describe her as an outgoing tomboy who was always on the phone with her many friends.

So the shock was widespread when, late last month, 13-year-old Kitty left them all behind, taking her own life at the family's home in Troy.

Kitty left no note. In search of a possible final message, authorities are seeking the password to her iPod. Meanwhile, those close to her say she killed herself because she was the target of teasing at school; the district is investigating the allegations but said it got no reports that Kitty was bullied.

Kitty's death highlights the need to raise awareness of suicide's astonishing prevalence -- it's the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. (The Maine Suicide Prevention Program is an excellent source of information; their hotline -- 1-888-568-1112 -- is a 24/7 resource for young people.)

Although the tragedy understandably has the community struggling for an explanation, it's also critical, however, to caution against a rush to judgment and acknowledge that nobody ever may know what led the girl to such drastic action.

Kitty was likely at higher risk of suicide than the average boy or girl in her age group. One of her uncles had killed himself about a year before Kitty's own suicide; people who have lost a loved one to suicide are at elevated risk of depression and guilt, which in turn can trigger suicides and suicide attempts on the part of the bereaved.

Kitty had been teased for reportedly questioning her sexual identity, those close to her say; compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay and bisexual young people are both more likely to be bullied and to commit suicide as a result of having been bullied.

Kitty's relatives say that they saw no signs she was suicidal, and that's possible even in as close-knit a family as Kitty's. It can be hard to identify the warning signs unless one knows specifically what to look for. Adolescents' swings between withdrawal and enthusiasm don't make "reading" them any easier.

"We'd like some closure," said Kitty's grandfather. Nobody with any heart would deny him that. But as he, his family and the community mourn, we hope they can achieve closure even if, as is likely, they never find out exactly why Kitty took her own life. Sadly, the only person who knows is now gone.

Correction: The name of the Maine Suicide Prevention Program is corrected above.

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