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Youth suicide rates rise in Washington

Death by suicide rates are rising as kids struggle under pressure.

SEATTLE, Washington — The number of teen suicides in Washington has increased over the last six years, and factors like stress at school and pressure from technology may carry some of the blame.

In Washington, 91 kids under the age of 19 took their lives in 2018, according to preliminary data from the state Department of Health. 

A recent study released in the Journal of American Medicine found that the rate of suicide in girls from age 10 to 14 is up 12% compared with 7.1% for boys the same age. Boys are still almost four times more likely than girls to die by suicide but the CDC found that gap is shrinking.

In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death in kids and teens in the United States, according the National Institutes of Health, and rates are increasing.

CHART: Youth suicides in Washington 2013-17

Why the increase? Multiple studies point to the fact that kids are under more pressure now than ever. A lot of that comes from technology. Social media has been proven to have a negative effect on developing minds, and girls are more susceptible to bullying online. Also, electronic devices can offer an unhealthy escape. Stress in school is a major factor as kids are feeling more pressure to achieve in school along with concerns about making a living when they grow up.

Some research also says parents can often be to blame. Here are two things many parents are guilty of: parent pressure and unrealistic praise. The pressure from parents comes when they push their children to succeed at a high level. Also unrealistic are certain forms of praise we give our children that they cannot live up to.

So, what can we do? Connect not just with your kids but other parents and teachers who may have vital observations about your child. Also, cut down on after-school activities so your kids have more time for homework and family time. Take away their technology giving them time to unplug. Finally, ask for help. Don’t be shy in seeking insight from school counselor, pediatrician or therapist.

Signs of suicide include talking or writing about death, seeking ways to kill themselves, and directly or indirectly threatening suicide.

If you or someone you know is dealing with thoughts of suicide do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or text HEAL to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.

Speak up. Speak out and be ready to listen.

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