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Silence is Deadly: Trying to Stop Teen Suicide

March 30, 2007

There used to be a saying that children should be seen and not heard. But Mark LoMurray says a chatty teenager could be the difference between life and death. LoMurray is the project manager for the North Dakota Adolescent Suicide Prevention Project. He says most teens who are thinking about suicide will tell a friend. The key is getting that friend to break his or her deadly "code of silence" and make the call for help. LoMurray says the best chance of success comes when an entire community learns to communicate and work together.

"Making sure we get parents involved, making sure we get teen leaders involved as well as you know having school staff, and folks in the faith communities, cultural leaders, and some of our tribal areas. Trying to get as much of the community active in a sense of that we're really responsible for each other."

The sad truth is, suicide is the number two killer of children ages 10 to 24 in North Dakota. It's number three nationwide.

LoMurray and other trainers spend time talking with students, parents and teachers across the state about finding sources of strength for hurting kids. That can include a circle of friends, supportive parents, a strong faith system or even proper antidepressant medication, Their approach seems to be working. Though North Dakota is still far above the national rate., the overall suicide rate has declined since the project started in 1999.

"You know it's like traffic fatalities. We're not going to prevent every traffic fatality, but we can really reduce the high numbers, the high rate sometimes. And we really look at suicide that way. We might not be able to stop every suicide, but we can reduce those numbers."

Debbie Aasen/Eric Mack, Public News Service - ND