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Teen Suicide On The Rise

The statistics frighten any parent, family
member, or friend of a teen:
* Suicide is the third-leading cause of death
among teenagers.

* 1,000 teenagers a day attempt suicide.

* 18 teenagers die each day due to suicide.

Such statistics should be a wake-up call for parents
of teens, says Hatim Omar, M.D., an adolescent medicine specialist at the University
of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center.

“Suicide attempts are on the rise and growing
closer to the number of teens who die as a result of homicide,” Omar says.
“At any given time, about 20 to 25 percent of kids are thinking about or
planning suicide.”

To focus awareness on the growing problem, Omar
is leading the “Stop Youth Suicide” campaign, which began in central
Kentucky last year, with plans to spread the message statewide.

Suicide is preventable, but parents and others who
are close to adolescents need to know the warning signs and what to do about
them. “The teen years are a very complex time of life. Teenagers are trying
to establish their independence, but are still dependent on their parents,”
Omar says.

“As parents, we expect our kids to be a reflection
of us. We have to understand that they are individuals.”

Omar lists some warning signs to look for:

* Verbal threats of suicide

* Giving away prized possessions

* Easy access to suicide methods and/or collection and discussion of information
on suicide methods

* Expression of hopelessness, helplessness, and anger at oneself or the

“Most importantly, take these warning signs
seriously and be willing to listen. Many parents are too busy to listen to their
kids, and when they do, may dismiss their children’s concerns as inconsequential.
Tell your teen, ‘We can talk about anything-nothing is unimportant,’ “
Omar suggests.

Omar offers more advice:
* Voice your concern.

* Let the person know you care and understand.

* Get professional help immediately.

* Follow up on treatment.

It’s not a bad idea to take a teenager to the doctor
for an annual visit. Pediatricians, particularly those trained in adolescent
medicine, can discuss possible risk factors with teens.

Above all, make time for your children, not always
an easy thing to do with a family’s demanding schedule. “Whatever you do,
the important thing is to make the effort. Don’t assume the situation will take
care of itself.”

For more information on the “Stop Youth Suicide”
campaign, the campaign’s Web site can be accessed from
It’s located under “Community Central.”

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