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Editorial: Awareness, action can go long ways to preventing suicides

Last Modified: Friday, December 06, 2013 10:35 PM

The statistic is jarring, troubling. Last year, Calcasieu Parish ranked fourth in the state of Louisiana in the number of suicides per 100,000.

That’s not a surprise to counselors like Katie Blum, who works with teens and families at the Family and Youth Counseling Agency.

The elderly have the highest rate of suicide, but suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15-24.

Blum says that although each individual is different, there are normally tell-tale signs that indicate a young person is contemplating suicide.

“Being depressed is not enough,” she said, “but when somebody is severely depressed, that’s normally the first warning sign to get them some help.”

That can be manifested in a person abandoning those things that normally interested him or her, a dramatic drop in grades, not seeing their friends as much or sleeping much more or less.

“It’s usually a huge shift. Some people will start giving their stuff away. Or some of them appear to be much better and they are happy and they finally got through it. For some teens and people they finally decided to kill themselves and move forward with it, and that gives them some relief,” said Blum.

For some teens, Blum said, suicide is less about death and more about shutting off their problems and not dealing with them.

“Everyone goes through that at some point in their life,” she said. “It’s possible when they speak of suicide it’s more along those lines, but there’s a severity to it.”

That’s why parents, siblings and friends should take any talk of suicide seriously. Blum advises parents to validate their teens’ concerns and talk about how they feel.

“Don’t fight them on how they feel”’ she said.

Discounting or brushing those feelings off can isolate a person even more, Blum said.

She said asking and discovering that the person has a plan to commit suicide or knows how, when or where they will do it is cause to rush that person to a hospital.

“If they say they know where the gun is and how to load it, that’s when it’s serious,” Blum said.

She said a person contemplating suicide will often talk to their friends about it because peers are important. She advises those friends to not be afraid “to tell the school counselor to tell their parent.”

“Even if they are totally (angry) at you, you can really save their life,” Blum said.

Blum said every case is different but it’s normally a combination of factors that lead young people to contemplate or commit suicide.

“Wanting to kill yourself is very complicated,” she said. “Something like bullying or an abusive parent or being isolated — those things alone or a combination — that definitely would put them on the road to wanting to kill themselves.”

“For example, being bullied for a year may be enough. But generally having an instance of bullying is not as powerful as those tiny little nicks for a long time and feeling isolated and having depression.”

Suicide, particularly for someone in the flower of life, has tragic consequences for the survivors as well as the deceased. Confronting it head on with awareness and action can go a long ways to preventing it.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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