Tennessee had a total of 1,219 suicides last year, an 11% increase since 2015. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death by Tennessee youth, ages 10-14 years-old, losing one child to suicide each week according to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. More teenagers die from suicide than cancer, heart disease, birth defects, pneumonia, influenza, and lung disease combined. But suicides can be prevented. The goal of Suicide Prevention Month is to raise awareness on the issue, help break the stigma associate with suicides, and educate others on the warning signs. All of this can save lives while providing help for someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
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“A long-held falsehood is that if someone is talking about suicide, they won’t do it. This is not true as suicide is a disease of ambivalence, deciding if you want to be alive or not,” said Raquel Shutze, director of specialized services at Youth Villages. “Suicidal ideation increases when someone feels an extreme amount of hopelessness, loneliness, or despair.”
Suicide Prevention efforts complicated by COVID-19
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, COVID-19 has negatively affected many people’s mental health, especially amongst youth who suffered from increased levels of anxiety, depression, and isolation due to family hardships, school closures, and canceled activities, which can all lead to suicide attempt or ideation.
“While we continue to practice social distancing, isolation can be jarring for a young person,” Shutze said. “If you suspect someone is going through a hard time, get professional help immediately.”
Youth Villages, a leader in children’s behavioral health services, works to prevent suicides by offering a 24/7 crisis services support line to help youth experiencing a psychiatric emergency get the mental health services they need to for treatment. Specialized Crisis Services connects youth with master’s-level clinicians to assess the situation efficiently and effectively by first making sure everyone is safe and providing next steps for a care plan, whether that involves in-patient care or mental health therapy.
Suicide prevention efforts increasingly important
In the last year, Youth Villages received 14,653 crisis calls with a high percentage of these calls relating to suicidal attempt or ideation. Recently, the organization has seen an uptick in calls in the last month due to kids going back to school, receiving nearly 500 more calls in August than July.
“In addition to the pandemic, kids going back to school is definitely a driver for the increase in calls,” Shutze said. “Youth are now in contact with adult supports that can recognize signs of a crisis and contact our crisis hotlines.”
Four in five teens who attempt suicide gave clear warning signs according to The Jason Foundation, dedicated to preventing youth suicide. Knowing the warning signs such as changes in routine behavior, decline in one’s appearance, loss of interest in activities once loved, or withdrawal from friends or social interactions can help save lives. Check out the full list of warning signs for suicidal attempt or ideation.
“The best tip for preventing suicides is helping youth feel connected. When kids and teens feel involved and have a sense of belonging, they are less likely to die by suicide,” Shutze said. “Talking to your kids can help prevent suicides as well. It might be an uncomfortable conversation, but it can save a loved one from taking a forever action.”
Conversations around suicide can be tough but open dialogue can be a lifeline to a person considering taking their own life. The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network recommends letting those with suicidal ideation know you care about them. Ask them how they feel and if they want to talk. If you have a family member or friend exhibiting any of the warning signs, reach out to them, text them, or stop by for a socially distanced visit.
“There is always a warning sign if you just ask the questions. If you see something, say something. Suicide can be prevented, Shutze said.
Suicide prevention resources
If you or anyone you know is or has experienced suicidal attempt or ideal, get help immediately.
Get help! Support services for youth in Tennessee:
- TN Crisis Hotline (855-CRISIS-1) or 1-855-274-7471
- TN Crisis Text Line (Text TN to 741-741)
- Youth Villages Specialized Crisis Hotline (1-866-791-9222)