Seventeen years ago today Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home after committing suicide. His death rocked young people across the country and sparked a rash of copycat suicides.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, suicides among young people continue to be a serious problem. Each year in the U.S., thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds.
The family of 12-year-old Chase Larson says he lost his battle with anxiety in early March. The middle schooler took his own life on March 6. Now, Union Middle School in Midvale, Utah is alerting parents to the warning signs of suicide.
“…they’ve identified students who may need to be kind of watched a little closer people pop into classes and teachers are aware that this student took it particularly hard, let us know if you notice something throughout the school day and that sort of thing,” says Michael Sirois, the Executive Director of Middle Schools for Canyon School District.
On Friday, a letter went home to parents identifying the risk factors and warnings signs of suicide.
“to let them know that we care and here’s some things to look for in a particular stressful situation like this. Let us know very quickly if there is something going on,” says Sirois.
The school is in the process of starting a program called “Tell Someone” in educating students about depression and how to help, or get help.
Parents should be aware of the following signs of adolescents who may try to kill themselves:
change in eating and sleeping habits
withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
drug and alcohol use
unusual neglect of personal appearance
marked personality change
persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork
frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
loss of interest in pleasurable activities
not tolerating praise or rewards
A teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also:
complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside
give verbal hints with statements such as: I won’t be a problem for you much longer, Nothing matters, It’s no use, and I won’t see you again
put his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important belongings, etc.
become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts)
If your child says I want to kill myself, or I’m going to commit suicide, always take it seriously and get help. Asking the child or adolescent whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. The question will let your child know that someone cares and give them a chance to talk about the problem.
Here is KSTU FOX 13’s report on Chase Larson including an interview with his parents:
Photo: KSTU FOX 13