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The Silent Epidemic: Youth Suicide

By on June 4, 2019
Woman with mental disorder

A silent epidemic sweeping our nation claims an average of more than 100 young lives each week. Youth suicide knows no social, racial or economic barriers. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults under 25. The CDC reports females attempt suicide more than three times as often as males, however males die by suicide more than four times as often as the females. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey over one out of every fourteen young people in our nation attempted suicide in the previous 12 months. More teenagers die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined. Each day in our nation there is more than 3000 suicide attempts of high school students.  

Four out of five suicide victims gave clear warning signs of their intentions. It is critical that parents learn how to identify these signs and respond to the signs as early as possible. Recognizing and addressing the signs can drastically improve these statistics by ultimately saving young lives. Often signs of concern can mimic some common teen behaviors which make it hard for parents to distinguish if they are just being a teen or if it is something serious. If the behaviors persist or several signs appear and the behavior is out of character for the child then it is time to pay closer attention, ask questions and seek help. 

Common catalysts to youth suicide:

•Most common is depression

•Feelings of hopelessness – being trapped in a life one can’t handle

•Divorce of parents

•Violence or abuse in the home

•Feelings of inability to be successful in school

•Feelings of worthlessness

•Rejection or perceived rejection especially by peer groups (bullying)

•Substance and alcohol use/abuse

•Death of someone close to the teenager

•Suicide of a friend or someone they ‘know’ online

If your child is undergoing similar situations keep a close eye out for behaviors or signs that they are considering dark thoughts, self-harm or suicide. Teen years are trying times and sometimes normal behavior looks a lot like destructive behavior. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions and look closely into the following warning signs:

•Talks about death and/or suicide – maybe even in a joking manner

•Expresses worries nobody cares about them – you’d be better off without them

•Withdraws from friends and family – become secluded

•Shows signs of depression 

•Changes in school attendance and/or performance

•Shows signs of substance abuse problems

•Begins to act recklessly – engages in risk taking behaviors

•Begins to give away prized, cherished, sentimental possessions

•Spends time online or listening to music that glamorizes suicide or maybe makes suicidal pacts

•Buying a weapon or sharp device

Dr. Kelly Newby, a New York State Licensed Clinical Psychologist, provides psychological assessments as well as individual, family, and group psychotherapy in Greece. Over 50% of Dr Newby’s patients are children and teens. Often they are struggling with navigating the pressures of adolescence. Dr. Newby feels the most important thing a parent can do is, “Really talk to your child about it. Parents need to ask the direct questions such as “How sad are you feeling? How bad is it getting? Do you trust yourself right now?”  Dr. Newby has found that often parents avoid asking these tough questions fearing that it might reinforce dangerous thoughts.  According to Dr. Newby it has the opposite affect by bringing potential hidden issues into the light so that the hurting child can be helped.  Dr. Newby’s practice has seen early signs of suicidal thoughts in children as young as 7 years old. “There can be a lot of shame and isolation in the child’s suffering. The suffering can come from various home scenarios but very often is caused from self-criticism. The youth of this generation are under heavy peer feedback in this digital era of social media. These kids have 24/7 exposure to being affected by bullying (which is now referred to as “drama”) and there is no escape from it,” Dr. Newby said. 

Often this type of exposure to bullying creates losses to connections in the child’s world leading to self destructive thoughts and behaviors such as cutting and or suicide. Social media like Snap Chat and Instagram often reinforces these dangerous thoughts when the child gets more attention with negative posts from their peers vs. positive posts. “We live in a world of self-criticism. The weight of the emotions of learning a child is potentially suicidal is extremely intense. But it’s important to remain as calm as possible and accept their feelings. Children are less inclined to share their pain if they see it causing the parents pain. Stay close to them and be available. Talk directly and openly but listen intently with empathy and offer hope.  It is imperative to engage outside experts to help work through the feelings and help teach safe coping skills,” Dr. Newby said. Seek help from doctors, counselors, pastors, and mental health professionals who are trained to deal with suicide.  You can find more tips from Dr. Newby’s office by visiting her Facebook page or 

On Saturday June 15, 2019, at 9AM there will be a Suicide Prevention program being offered at Greece Assembly of God Church, 750 Long Pond Road, Greece.  Nick Costello, a former crisis relief chaplain and a faith based suicide prevention expert, is teaching a suicide prevention and intervention program. In this class he will teach through proper training, how parents and loved ones can detect warning signs with hope of prevention as well as better understand how to support survivors. Nick received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation and the University of Maryland.  This 2 hour in depth seminar is open to the community ages 13+ and will help provide a solid understanding of the issue of suicide. To learn more about this class or to register visit or call 225-3880.