New research shows suicides of people younger than 20 steadily declined for ten years before spiking 18 percent in 2004 and then coming down again in 2005. Federal health officials have urged caution in interpreting this 1-year spike until data from additional years are available for comparison, according to a recent letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association .
Three hundred and fifteen Missourians between the ages of 10 and 19 committed suicide from 1999 through 2005. In 2004, there were 15 more suicides than in 2003. Even though the number dropped to 38 suicides in 2005, the most recent year which numbers are available, suicide prevention coordinator Scott Perkins with the state department of mental health said it’s still too high.
"Unfortunately we do have a higher rate than the national average," he said. "If you look at the year to year changes and the rates in the national level often the same thing will happen on the state level. If it goes up on the nation we see an increase on the state."
The department of mental health is using a federal grant to fund youth suicide prevention programs . The department uses the money to teach professionals like teachers and law enforcement officials how to spot the signs that someone might be considering suicide.
"We’ve also done a newsletter for school administrators discussing suicide prevention and the importance of addressing that," Perkins said. "We have been active with the youth grant doing additional focusing on youth more than what we had been doing and we’re hoping to continue to be able to do that."
The department stills works directly with students to remind them to turn to an adult who can actually help them if they’re feeling suicidal or know someone who is.
"Unfortunately most students or youth would turn to peers before they would go to an adult so you’ve got to make sure that the students know that if somebody comes to them and talks about suicide it’s not a good idea to keep it a secret that they turn to others and try to get help for that student," Perkins said.
Perkins emphasizes that help is available. A good resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or by phone 1-800-273-TALK (8255).