Upcoming forum aims to educate on teen suicide prevention

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 14, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Many teenagers are silently fighting their own battles, not sure how to deal with the new emotions they’re experiencing. And sometimes they lose this battle, and take their own lives. An upcoming forum aims to raise awareness for the issue, and ways to prevent it.

Titled “No More,” the event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at Madison Heights Fire Station No. 1, 31313 Brush St. in Madison Heights. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and a light dinner will be served. The event is being presented by the Madison Heights Crime Commission in partnership with the Southfield Domestic Violence Group, and Onyx Cultural & Educational Foundation Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization promoting diversity.

The SDVG has been involved in other recent events in the city, including forums at Madison Heights United Methodist Church, with forums on issues such as human trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault prevention and awareness.

Margaret Hall, the director of SDVG, said that youth suicide rates are rising in Michigan, with the rate for girls aged 12-18 doubling over a five-year period ending in 2017, and doubling for boys as well over a six-year period ending in 2017.

“Our children live in a scary world today. The filters that used to be in place don’t exist, so it makes the children vulnerable. Compound that with social media and lack of parental guidance, and you have the perfect formula for disaster and destruction of lives,” Hall said. “The world is scary enough for adults today who can process information differently than children. … When I talk to some teenagers, they feel that their lives don’t mean anything and that they don’t have options, so they choose to end their lives.

“Mental health awareness is very important,” she continued. “There should be safeguards in places so we can recognize what isn’t working. … The village was in place to protect children, but the village is gone now, and we need it back.”

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, suicide is a “significant public health problem in the U.S.,” claiming more than 42,000 lives in 2014 alone. People of all ages, backgrounds and racial groups are impacted, but certain populations are at higher risk. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for youth and young adults aged 10-24 in Michigan. Since 2010, Michigan’s suicide rates have been surpassing national rates.

Young men die by suicide nearly four times more than young women in Michigan, and suicide rates generally increase with age. The overall suicide rate for youth ages 10-14 was 2.2 per 100,000, compared to 15 per 100,000 for young adults ages 20-24.

Also, according to MDHHS, suicide rates are highest among American Indian youth and young adults, with a rate of 11.4 per 100,000. White youth and young adults have the second-highest suicide rate, at 9.7 per 100,000. And Hispanic youth and young adults die by suicide at a lower rate than non-Hispanics, at 7.5 vs. 9.2 per 100,000.

The MDHHS notes that the most common methods of suicide among youth and young adults include hanging/strangulation/suffocation and firearms. Less common methods include poisoning, cutting and piercing, and jumping. Poisoning includes intentional self-poisoning by exposure to various drugs, alcohol, gases, vapors or chemicals. The majority of poisoning deaths are from prescription pill overdose or exposure to toxic gases such as carbon monoxide.

The most common method of death in males is firearms, while hanging/strangulation/suffocation is the most common method for females. Poisoning claimed more female lives than males at 18% vs. 3%.

Deliza Lee, a member of the Madison Heights Crime Commission, said that the community needs to step up.

“Far too many kids feel that problems such as relationship issues and social issues are too much to bear. Another problem is those that are left behind (after a suicide) — the family, friends and classmates. They have such a hard time dealing with the death of their peers. So we need to close the gap.”

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