We are writing to bring public attention to youth suicide.

Suicide is a problem throughout our life span in America. Between 2008 and 2014, suicide was identified as the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age in the U.S. The highest rates reported across the lifespan are occurring among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations. Sexual minority youth can bear a large burden as well, and experience increased suicidal ideation and behavior compared to their non-LGBT peers. There is also evidence that shows an increased risk of suicide among youth and children experiencing a trauma who consequently present with depression and anxiety.

The CDC death by suicide rates recorded from 2008-2014 suggest rates for children and youths ages 8-18 in Maine and Vermont spanned between 5.8 to 8.2 per 100,000 which is higher than the 2.54 suicide rate for other northeast states. The opioid epidemic is destroying families. Electronic entertainments are isolating young people from in-real-life social networks. There is increasing pressure on high school students to compete for acceptance to college. Suicide climbed from being the third most common cause of death for youth to No. 2 in just a couple of decades.

Medical professionals and researchers in the U.S. have noted alarming increases in the last decade – deaths more than doubled from 2008 to 2016 – and rising numbers of young children are now visiting emergency departments for suicidal thoughts and attempts. The reasons for the increases are unclear. Few researchers have examined suicide before age 10, so less is known about suicidal thinking and behavior in young children. Many suicides of young children followed episodes of bullying. Social media can amplify threatening attacks, making them impossible to escape. Although, it’s unclear whether bullying causes suicide-related behavior, the CDC says it’s among the risk factors that increase a likelihood that a young person will consider and/or attempt to take his or her life.

Children who have disabilities or differences in learning, sexual/gender identity or culture are often most vulnerable to being bullied. A combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors contribute to suicide risk. These may include: family history of maltreatment (e.g., abuse and neglect), feeling isolated, being cut off from others, feeling hopeless, having impulsive or aggressive tendencies, physical illnesses and facing barriers to mental health services which can often be present for youth who have disabilities or other differences from the non-disabled-youth population.

Other indicators of suicide risk for youths include family history of suicide; previous suicide attempt(s); history of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression, and/or alcohol and substance use; cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma); local epidemics of suicide; limited access to mental health treatment; relational, social, job, or financial loss; easy access to lethal methods; and unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance use disorders or to suicidal thoughts.

Intervention strategies include limiting use of electronic entertainment each day, encouraging youth to be compassionate in their online interactions, and helping them realize that for the most part, people’s social media personas are edited to only present the best parts of their lives. Encourage and support children’s participation in more IRL activities, such as sports, hobbies, clubs (e.g., business achievement or robotics), scouting and agricultural groups (e.g., 4H).

Even when suicidal thoughts do not lead to attempts, they can indicate problems ahead. Researchers have found that children who considered suicide before adolescence had higher rates of mental health and addiction disorders as adults than those whose first suicidal thoughts came later. There are several warning signs in children that families and schools should be looking for that could lead to suicide:

• Talk about ending one’s life.

• Changes in behavior, including sleep, diet or energy.

• Increased impulsiveness.

• Feelings of hopelessness,

When these warning signs are present, experts on national suicide prevention recommend immediately taking steps toward responding quickly in addressing them. Be sure to ask questions in a non-judgmental way and contact a mental health professional for help.

Trained, professional help is available 24 hours every day at the statewide crisis hotline: 888-568-1222. You can always call 911 for help if you are worried that someone is in danger of hurting themselves, or go to the emergency room of any hospital.

 

 

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