Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Teen death by suicide

A local paper is doing a story on teen suicide, prompted by the fact that 3 students from the same high school have died by suicide over the last 3 months. It is definitely unusual for the media to do a story on this “taboo” subject, despite, as I discussed with the reporter, the fact that the myth that stories about suicide “cause” other suicide deaths has been proven false. I discussed a number of things with the reporter, which I will likely come back to in future posts, but one bit we talked about was a comment made to us in the course of our investigation of one of the deaths. To paraphrase: The kid was quiet, never in any trouble, never really noticed at school (or elsewhere). What this screamed to me was “depression”.

It seems that the thing that these kids had in common was unrecognized depression. Nonetheless, I can’t say that if I were at the school or their parent that I would have noticed it either (I hope I would, but sometimes we are more grateful than worried when a kid is just quiet). But was the safety net in place so these kids could seek help, easily, anonymously and without other “problems” being created? Was the safety net in place so that their friends could have helped them get help if they recognized a “problem”? Did folks know what to look for and know how to help them get help?

A small group of folks are going to get together soon to discuss those issues specifically (I didn’t mention that to the reporter) and our Suicide Prevention Task Force is certainly looking at the suicide “problem” more broadly. It is too late for these kids, but I pray that we will save others.

In an interview recently I heard the Director of a movie focused on death by suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge describe death by suicide as “people jumping out of their own infernos”. That is so true, but we need to get them help short of that “jump”.

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