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To address teen suicide, look for the signs — and take action

By Marya Grambs

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 13, 2012

~~<p>Mental Health America of Hawaii has spent the last four years listening to 10,000 Hawaii youth &mdash; and the adults who interact with them &mdash; talk about suicide.<br />
<br />
<em>&ldquo;I wanted to die. I was depressed. I attempted (suicide) three times.&rdquo;<br />
&ldquo;My sister killed herself. She was pregnant and she couldn&rsquo;t tell her parents &hellip; &rdquo;<br />
&ldquo;When I really know that my depression is kicking in, I want to die.&rdquo;</em><br />
<br />
What they&rsquo;ve told us are disturbing. And so are the facts about the rate of youth suicide in this state, which is particularly important to publicize this week, National Suicide Prevention Week. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Education, Hawaii has the highest rate in the nation of high school students who have made suicide plans: Nearly one out of five, or six students in a classroom of 30, have made a plan to kill themselves.<br />
<table width="50%" align="right" class="infoboxright_table">
<tbody>
<tr>
<td><strong>HOW TO GET HELP</strong><br />
<br />
Call Hawaii&rsquo;s ACCESS Line 24/7: Oahu, 832-3100; neighbor island, 1-800-753-6879. If someone is actively suicidal, go to the nearest emergency room.<br />
<br />
If the threat is not immediate but there is concern about depression or suicide, call Mental Health America of Hawaii&rsquo;s help line, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: on Oahu, 521-1846; on Maui, 242-6461. Or visit the website, <a href="http://www.mentalhealth-hi.org">www.mentalhealth-hi.org</a>.</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>
&ldquo;I attempted suicide twice before I turned 17 years old.&rdquo;<br />
&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve thought about it (suicide) &hellip; just sometimes that&rsquo;s how I&rsquo;m feeling. Like I wish that I wasn&rsquo;t here.&rdquo; <br />
<br />
Perhaps more alarming: We have the highest rate among 15 states of middle-school students seriously considering suicide (one out of five) or making a suicide plan (one out of seven).<br />
And, we have the second highest rate of middle-school students who have tried to kill themselves: one out of 11. That&rsquo;s three students in a classroom.<br />
&nbsp;<br />
&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve attempted plenty of times &hellip; either I just didn&rsquo;t have anyone to talk to or I was just done with it.&rdquo;<br />
It is very sobering to realize that suicide is the leading cause of fatal injuries of people age 15 to 64 in Hawaii &mdash; more than car crashes and homicide. In fact, over four years, there were 633 suicides in this age group, and only 25 homicides. &nbsp;<br />
<br />
So each day that you read about a homicide, be sure to think about how many, many more people killed themselves that very same day. But it won&rsquo;t be in the newspaper. <br />
<br />
What can we do?<br />
<br />
<img src="http://media.staradvertiser.com/images/20120913_edit_iv_mug.jpg" alt="" style="float:left;padding-left:1em;padding-bottom:1em;" />&gt;&gt; First: Understand that so many of our teenagers are suffering from severe depression and feeling suicidal. <br />
<br />
&gt;&gt; Second: Look for signs in teenagers you know who may be feeling down. Signs include withdrawal from friends, family and school activities; sadness or hopelessness; lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation; anger or rage; overreaction to criticism; feelings of being unable to meet expectations; poor self-esteem or guilt.<br />
<br />
Other signs might be: indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness; restlessness, agitation and irritability; eating too much or too little; being unable to sleep or sleeping all the time; self harm (cutting, burning, scratching); decrease in school performance; negative changes in appearance; substance abuse.<br />
<br />
&gt;&gt; Third: Be aware of those who are at greater risk for depression and suicidal behavior. These include Native Hawaiians; neighbor island youth; girls involved in the juvenile justice system; lesbian/<br />
&nbsp; gay/bisexual/transgender youth; youth from military families.<br />
<br />
Note other factors that can lead to depression and suicidal feelings such as relationship break-ups, <br />
teen pregnancy, bullying, family violence, trauma, substance abuse, mental health problems, death of a loved one, and moving frequently.<br />
<br />
&nbsp;&gt;&gt; Fourth: Ask the question. If you have a concern about a young person, be direct. Ask them if they are feeling suicidal. If you don&rsquo;t ask, you won&rsquo;t know, and you can&rsquo;t help. It will not cause them to be suicidal, but it can give them a great sense of relief that someone cares and understands.</p>~~

Mental Health America of Hawaii has spent the last four years listening to 10,000 Hawaii youth — and the adults who interact with them — talk about suicide. “I wanted to die. I was depressed. I attempted (suicide) three times.” “My sister killed herself. She was pregnant and she couldn’t tell her parents … ” “When I really know that my depression is kicking in, I want to die.” What they’ve told us are disturbing. And so are the facts about the rate of youth suicide in this state, which is particularly important to publicize this week, National Suicide Prevention Week. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Education, Hawaii has the highest rate in the nation of high school students who have made suicide plans: Nearly one out of five, or six students in a classroom of 30, have made a plan to kill themselves. HOW TO GET HELP Call Hawaii’s ACCESS Line 24/7: Oahu, 832-3100; neighbor island, 1-800-753-6879. If someone is actively suicidal, go to the nearest emergency room. If the threat is not immediate but there is concern about depression or suicide, call Mental Health America of Hawaii’s help line, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: on Oahu, 521-1846; on Maui, 242-6461. Or visit the website, www.mentalhealth-hi.org. “I attempted suicide twice before I turned 17 years old.” “I’ve thought about it (suicide) … just sometimes that’s how I’m feeling. Like I wish that I wasn’t here.” Perhaps more alarming: We have the highest rate among 15 states of middle-school students seriously considering suicide (one out of five) or making a suicide plan (one out of seven). And, we have the second highest rate of middle-school students who have tried to kill themselves: one out of 11. That’s three students in a classroom.   “I’ve attempted plenty of times … either I just didn’t have anyone to talk to or I was just done with it.” It is very sobering to realize that suicide is the leading cause of fatal injuries of people age 15 to 64 in Hawaii — more than car crashes and homicide. In fact, over four years, there were 633 suicides in this age group, and only 25 homicides.   So each day that you read about a homicide, be sure to think about how many, many more people killed themselves that very same day. But it won’t be in the newspaper. What can we do? >> First: Understand that so many of our teenagers are suffering from severe depression and feeling suicidal. >> Second: Look for signs in teenagers you know who may be feeling down. Signs include withdrawal from friends, family and school activities; sadness or hopelessness; lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation; anger or rage; overreaction to criticism; feelings of being unable to meet expectations; poor self-esteem or guilt. Other signs might be: indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness; restlessness, agitation and irritability; eating too much or too little; being unable to sleep or sleeping all the time; self harm (cutting, burning, scratching); decrease in school performance; negative changes in appearance; substance abuse. >> Third: Be aware of those who are at greater risk for depression and suicidal behavior. These include Native Hawaiians; neighbor island youth; girls involved in the juvenile justice system; lesbian/   gay/bisexual/transgender youth; youth from military families. Note other factors that can lead to depression and suicidal feelings such as relationship break-ups, teen pregnancy, bullying, family violence, trauma, substance abuse, mental health problems, death of a loved one, and moving frequently.  >> Fourth: Ask the question. If you have a concern about a young person, be direct. Ask them if they are feeling suicidal. If you don’t ask, you won’t know, and you can’t help. It will not cause them to be suicidal, but it can give them a great sense of relief that someone cares and understands.

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