The number of #teensuicides in #KingCounty is pacing higher than in recent years. Experts say talking about the issue is imperative.
The three teens were from #Shoreline, #Bellevue, and #Woodinville. Two were 16, one was 17. The deaths happened near each other in a short time period, but neither the King County Sheriff’s Office nor Bellevue police believes they are connected.
According to King County, seven people under 17 have died by suicide so far in 2019. That’s as many as have occurred in entire years in the past, according to county statistics. In addition to the three deaths since Friday, a fourth teen died by suicide last week before the weekend, according to #KingCountyPublicHealth.
“It’s a very basic message: we have to start by talking to our kids and know what’s going on and what to look for,” said Dr. Daniel J. Reidenberg, executive director of the nonprofit #SuicideAwarenessVoicesofEducation (SAVE).
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teens between 15 and 19 in Washington, according to the #OfficeofSuperintendentofPublicInstruction (OSPI). And Washington’s suicide rate, in general, is 15.7 per 100,000 people, higher than the national average of 13 per 100,000.
Guns were used in two of the weekend suicides, which tracks with a long-term trend in King County: between 2000 and 2016 suicide by gun remained steady, more than double the rate of homicides by gun. There are about 106 gun suicides in the county each year compared to 37 gun homicides.
The rate of gun suicides among young people has remained low, however. The rate between 2012 and 2016 was 2.2 per 100,000 among children between 12 and 17, the lowest rate among any age group in the county.
Suicide deaths in King County, 2008-19
|Years||Under 17||Total in King County||Share of teen suicides|
|Jan. 1 – April 16, 2019||7||96||7.29%|
Camille Goldy, head of the state superintendent’s #BehavioralHealthandSuicidePreventionProgram, said that state laws passed in 2013 and 2014 require public schools to enact suicide-prevention curriculum, and require staff to be trained to recognize signs of suicide.
It’s too early to know if the laws have reduced suicide in teens, Goldy said. It will likely take until next year for all school staff required under state law to complete suicide prevention training. Implementation of suicide prevention curriculum differs from district to district, Goldy said, and often depends on an individual district’s available resources.
#BellevueSchoolDistrict spokesman Michael May said that students begin learning about mental health and emotions as early as the 7th grade. The district is also piloting a new suicide prevention program for high schools and middle schools that helps students identify suicide warning signs.
(The Bellevue student who died over the weekend attended a private school in Seattle. State laws do not apply to private schools, but that student’s school does offer comprehensive mental health counseling.)
This week, the #PuyallupSchoolDistrict brought a suicide survivor to that city to talk to students. Kevin Hines, who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000, has also spoken to students in Gig Harbor.
The #ForefrontSuicidePrevention program at the #UniversityofWashington is also working in local schools to supplement suicide prevention training — which is sometimes lacking.
“From our work over the last 3 years, we have learned that most schools have robust procedures to deal with fires, disasters and active shooters, but procedures for responding to mental health crises are typically limited or non-existent. Similarly, schools rarely have curriculum or training for teachers, students and parents around #suicideprevention and #mentalhealthawareness,” Forefront notes on its website.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Forefront began offering its program in 16 individual schools in multiple cities around the region, from #WhidbeyIsland to Seattle, in 2017 (Forefront worked with a separate group of 13 schools between 2015 and 2018).
The toll suicide takes on a school is immense, experts say. In King County, the medical examiner will report incidents of suicide in young people, which allows #PublicHealth put local nonprofits on notice in case extra resources are needed at schools. In addition, the county’s #Children’sCrisisOutreachResponseSystem (CCORS) can dispatch a team within two hours to help families deal with an immediate crisis.
In the case of teens, there’s no one reason why it happens. #Bullying and #cyberbullying have been identified as #suicideriskfactors, but have not been definitively linked as a cause. Recently a scare involving the social media phenomenon “Momo Challenge” has been exposed as a myth.
#Suicide is rising in general across the U.S. Rates rose in every state except Nevada between 1999 and 2016, according to the #CentersforDiseaseControl, and nearly half of people who die by #suicide do not have a known #mentalillness.
The phenomenon of #suicide “contagion,” where one death triggers others, is very rare, Reidenberg said. The best way to prevent these deaths, he said, is to recognize the warning signs and know what resources are available.
Experts say that suicide is preventable, and there is hope for anyone contemplating it.
“Talking about #suicide does not introduce the idea of #suicide,” OSPI’s Goldy said. “It’s really OK and the best practice to ask directly about someone’s feelings toward suicide. Are they experiencing suicidal thoughts? And help that person get access to support.
“That’s where our opportunity lies,” she said.