KCUR: Parents urged to watch teens for signs of suicide as summer starts
Photo & article by Sophia Tulp
Mental health advocates are urging parents to watch for suicide warning signs as school lets out for summer.
“The first thing that we have to do is be okay and comfortable with even saying the word suicide,” said Kevin McGuire, co-chair of the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition told the crowd gathered Tuesday for a panel discussion on mental health.
The Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition, an extension of Johnson County Mental Health Center, is trying to be proactive after five teen suicides in 2017 and the three earlier this year. The beginning of summer can be a stressful time.
Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March shows the suicide rate among young people between the ages of 10 and 17 increased 70 percent between 2006 to 2016. In Kansas, the suicide rate is higher than the national average and highest in Johnson County.
“We do have a problem with suicide in our community,” Shayla Sullivant, a child psychiatrist at Children’s Mercy, who focuses on suicide prevention, said. “Both Kansas and Missouri have higher-than-the-national-average rate of completed suicide for young people, so this is a very real problem in the heartland.”
About 50 people turned out for the panel, which touched on media portrayals of suicide, local resources and ways to talk with teens on the topic. Sullivant discussed ‘means prevention,’ a proven method for stopping teen suicide by limiting and securing an adolescent’s access to guns and medication in the home.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8225), or text HELLO to 741741.
Learn about services offered by the Division of Developmental & Behavioral Sciences at Children's Mercy.