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Guest column/A leading cause of death in the United States

There was a time when discussion of suicide was taboo. You didn’t read about suicides in the newspapers. Others might read about it and get the idea, too. The fact is, some people do at least think about it. The loss of a loved one can have that effect on a person.

Earlier this week, news outlets reported that, during the pandemic, the number of suicide and suicide attempts has increased, especially among teenage girls.

Somehow, when we bring those beautiful babies into this world, cuddle them, love them and nurture them, we don’t think about all the problems that adversity might cause for them as they grow toward adulthood.

When they go off to school, we aren’t there to see how they are spoken to, how they are treated, what goes on that no one there acknowledges or to which blind eyes are turned. When they begin to date, we aren’t there to make sure that our children are treated well by their dates. We take leaps of faith that all will be well when our children return home by curfew. And our children, seeking independence, are not always forthcoming with their problems.

Suicide and suicidal thoughts are connected to other forms of injury and violence including bullying, child abuse and sexual violence. The recent media reports relate to the data analysis published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The analysis reports that the data used does not confirm that the cause of more teen suicides is COVID-19. Bear in mind that the number of deaths by suicide has not increased, according to this report.

“Young persons might represent a group at high risk because they might have been particularly affected by mitigation measures such as physical distancing (including lack of connectedness to schools, teachers and peers); barriers to mental health treatment; increases in substance use; and anxiety about family health and economic problems, which are all risk factors for suicide.”

The authors go on to say, “In addition, average emergency department visit rates for mental health concerns and suspected child abuse and neglect, risk factors for suicide attempts, also increased in 2020 compared with 2019, potentially contributing to increases in suspected suicide attempts.

“Conversely, by spending more time at home together with young persons, adults might have become more aware of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and thus been more likely to take their children to the emergency department.”

Suicide can be prevented. It’s important for parents and others to recognize the signs that someone is thinking of suicide by assuring youth of good social connections, to teach them life-coping skills that will help them deal with the problems they face as they learn to become more independent from their parents and guardians. When you recognize the signs, how should you respond to this? And are medications and firearms and other lethal objects safely stored? Do you know how to help your child when you see they are in dire need of rescue?

In 2019, there was one death by suicide every 11 minutes in America. Some 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide; 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.4 million attempted suicide.

It is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 34, fourth leading cause in people ages 34-54 and fifth leading cause of death in people ages 45 to 54.

Suicide affects the health and well-being of friends, loved ones, co-workers, and community, who may experience anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, shock. The CDC reports that 90 percent of survivors do not die by suicide. Attempted suicide can result in serious injuries that last a lifetime.

“Suicide prevention requires a comprehensive approach that is adopted during times of infrastructure disruption, involves multisectoral partnerships (families, mental health, public health and schools) and implements evidence-based strategies to address the range of factors influencing suicide risk.”

Everyone is a stakeholder in helping youth to see their future.

Family Recovery Center helps families to find ways to navigate through these challenging times. For information about the agency’s treatment and education programs, contact the center at 1010 N. Sixth St., Steubenville; by phone at (740) 283-4946; or by e-mail at info@familyrecovery.org. The center is funded in part by Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board.

(Brownfield is a publicist at the Family Recovery Center.)

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