TUCSON, Ariz. — Teen suicides are up this year in Arizona.
During Monday's press conference to address the pandemic and education, Dr. Cara Christ revealed 43 children have died by suicide this year. She explained that the total number was 38 for all of 2019.
The Pima County Health Department said nearly 30% of the deaths this year were in Pima County. Vail Unified School District Superintendent John Carruth revealed two happened in Vail.
"Unfortunately, death by suicide is not a new phenomenon among young people. We have experience with that, but what has been unusual is walking through that process, as a community, and with families while we are not able to be in the same space," he explained.
Carruth said there are still methods where we can check in on one another. His district even has a curriculum on suicide prevention.
“We gathered a group of our counseling staff, and other community members and looked at what are social-emotional learning supports that we can develop for teachers to be able to use with their students in a remote setting or in a hybrid setting," he explained.
It’s one resource for students suffering, but others include hotlines — like the Teen Lifeline based out of Arizona. Clinical Director Nikki Kontz said this year the lifeline expects a 10% increase in calls over last year.
“We actually train teen peer counselors to take calls from other teens that need someone to talk to, they're struggling and they do that every day of the year," she explained.
Those teens answer the calls and texts that roll in from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the remaining hours are answered by behavioral health clinicians and social workers.
Below include warning signs that your child may be at risk, especially during the pandemic:
- Changes in wanting to hang out with people
- Drastic changes in eating and sleeping
- Changes in mood like anxiousness and irritability
Superintendent Carruth stressed the message of following COVID-19 protocol to keep students in a social environment — like school.
“Our ability to have schools open and have students be in contact with other adults who care and love them — who can help alongside and support parents in this time is dependent upon the conditions of the viral spread in that community," he said.
The Pima County Health Department added this year is unique, and that parents and educators can promote a message of resiliency among our youth. The community crisis number 520-622-6000, is also available for residents looking for help.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.