First priority: Talk, listen

May. 19, 2014 @ 07:26 PM

Nationally, suicide is the third-highest cause of death among individuals ages 10 to 24 years.

The suicide rates for all age categories in the Tri-County area during 2007-2011 were 15.1 per 100,000 population for Vance County, 12.8 for Granville County and 11.2 for Warren County. The statewide rate for that period was 12.1.

Concern about suicide among children and adolescents was serious enough to bring two dozen people to a workshop on “Children/Adolescent/Teenage Suicide Awareness” at the Aycock Recreation Center on Monday.

Heart Foxworth, consumer affairs specialist for Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions and a licensed clinical social worker, led the discussion.

Foxworth said young people often attempt suicide impulsively, driven by fears or pressures of the moment.

“They don’t have the cognitive ability to understand that it’s permanent,” she said. “They don’t want to die.”

She described a number of groups that are at highest risk of suicide. Teenage boys with emotional or behavioral disorders are at high risk. Girls in this age range are more prone to depression but seem better able to lean on one another for support.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth often are discriminated against and bullied, making them more likely to attempt suicide. “It’s a hot button issue in our society right now,” Foxworth said.

LGBTQ youth are not always protected from harassment and may not be understood by teachers or their parents.

“If you take nothing else away from this, my number one priority is to get us talking about this so we can be more comfortable about it and be better able to talk to kids,” she said.

Having access to potentially lethal medications can be dangerous for an unhappy young person. Some prescribed drugs, such as antidepressant, are obviously lethal. Not so obvious are the possible deadly effects of over-the-counter drugs if they are misused.

The rate of successful suicides is higher among boys than girls, Foxworth said. Girls are more likely to attempt suicide by a reversible action, such as taking pills. Boys may choose to use a gun, which is more likely to be deadly.

Workshop materials stated: “Studies have shown that the risk of suicide is 4 to 10 times higher in homes with guns than in those without.” The handout emphasized the need to keep guns and ammunition locked up in different places, and that teens should not have the keys.

Foxworth described how adults working with children could intervene in a potential suicide using the “Tell Me More” model. By asking the child to describe their thoughts and feelings and adding “Tell me more,” the adult can create a connection to give the child support in dealing with fears and depression.

She concluded her presentation with an example from her own experience in counseling a 7-year-old boy.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.