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Arizona mental health expert: Suicide rates have 'sky-rocketed'

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Posted at 4:22 PM, Apr 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-23 20:29:11-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Suicide rates are on the rise, making it the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 through 34, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the number of 5 to 18-year-olds who went to the emergency room for suicidal thoughts or attempts across the country doubled from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.12 million in 2015.

Sonora Behavioral Health Director of outpatient services Diane Ryan said there are no definitive answers, but contributing factors to suicide include mental illnesses, substance use, trauma and technology.

"The rates of suicidal death have really sky-rocketed," Ryan said. "The way that kids are able to get access to information, specific information about suicide, that allows it to be romanticized in some way,"

She says with the way kids use social media to communicate, it tends to lead to bullying and depression. This creates a vulnerable state of mind, leading to suicidal thoughts.

"A lot of times I hear from parents, when kids say that they want to hurt themselves or perhaps end their lives, they don't want to talk about it. It's really an uncomfortable topic," Ryan said.

In order to make it more comfortable, Ryan said society need to make the conversation about suicidal thoughts more normal.

"Everybody goes through periods in their lives when they need support, that's a universal thing," Ryan said. "If people respond in a health way to that and normalize that it's going to set the stage for much more healthy behavior on the part of the teens."

One way Arizona is trying to combat the rising number is with Senate Bill 1468. The bill would provide suicide prevention training to educational professionals in schools.

The bill is currently making it's way through the House, after passing in the Senate.

Ryan said this bill is a positive step forward to increasing awareness.

"It really is important to seek help, and get connections with other people," Ryan said.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention life line at 1-800-273-8255.