With the United States in the midst of a youth suicide crisis, parents, teachers, and others in Arkansas are working to identify and protect young people who are at risk for ending their own lives.
According to a Nov. 4, 2016, report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate among adolescents ages 10 to 14 across the nation has spiked dramatically in recent years. In 2007, the annual suicide rate for adolescents ages 10 to 14 was 0.9 percent; seven years later, the rate had more than doubled, rising to 2.1 percent.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has reported the following facts about suicide in Arkansas:
- Arkansas ranks 16th in the United States with an annual suicide rate of 17.25 deaths per 100,000 residents.
- Sabastian County, Arkansas has an annual suicide rate of 14.3 deaths per 100,000 residents.
- Among individuals ages 10 to 34 in Arkansas, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.
- The state of Arkansas averages about one death by suicide every 17 hours.
The Jason Foundation (JFI), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating youth suicide, reports that more young people die from suicide than from AIDS, birth defects, cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, influenza, pneumonia, and stroke combined.
- Suicide Risk Factors
The Jason Foundation’s website also lists the following as among the more common signs and risk factors that may increase a young person’s likelihood for attempting suicide:
- Expressing direct or indirect threats related to suicide
- Being preoccupied or obsessed with death
- Making final arrangements, such as giving away prized possessions
- Struggling with depression
- Experiencing the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship
- Complaining of frequent difficult-to-confirm physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, and/or diminished energy
- Having previously attempted suicide
Suicide among young people or adults is a complex problem that rarely has one single cause or motivating factor. However, as noted by the JFI information above, the presence or absence of certain elements can raise an individual’s suicide risk. The same can also be said for suicide risk within a demographic group or geographic region.
For example, in 2013, a Harvard study suggested a link between lax gun laws and increased suicide. According to a June 3, 2013 Arkansas News article, researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health found that the suicide rate in states with no or few gun restrictions is twice as high as the suicide rate in states with relatively strict gun laws.
Around the same time that the Harvard suicide study was released, Arkansas legislators were passing a number of laws that were designed to make it easier for individuals in the state to purchase and own firearms.
Suicide Prevention Help in Arkansas
If you suspect that a child, adolescent, or any other person in your life may be at risk for suicide, do not ignore your fears. If the individual is in immediate danger of harming him or herself, call 911 or another local emergency response number or contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-TALK (8255).
Once the individual is no longer at risk for imminent harm, be sure that he or she gets help from one of the many organizations and healthcare providers in Arkansas that are dedicated to helping young people and others who have been struggling with suicidal thoughts.
If the young person has been struggling with depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or one of the many other mental health disorders that are associated with increased risk of suicide, make sure that he or she receives a thorough assessment, accurate diagnosis, and comprehensive care from a reputable provider.
Taking these important steps can prepare the young person with the skills and strategies that he or she will need to overcome the urge to harm him or herself and live a healthier, more productive, and more satisfying life.