Suicide Now 2nd Leading Cause of Death Among ND Youth, New Help Available
BISMARCK, N.D. - Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among young people in North Dakota and across the country, but the state is getting some new help on the issue. The North Dakota Department of Health is setting aside about $580,000 for new evidence-based suicide prevention projects in schools and communities across the state. This comes as new research published today by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows suicide is the number two cause of death for people age 15 to 19.
North Dakota Department of Health's State Suicide Prevention
Director Alison Traynor said the youth suicide rate in North Dakota is higher than the national average, and that a lack of resources in rural areas could be contributing to the problem.
"The amount of miles between individuals or residents and resources, like mental health care and behavioral health care, that is certainly something that has been associated with the increase in the rural communities," she said.
According to the state's Department of Public Instruction, one out of every six middle school students has seriously thought about killing themselves. Traynor said six Regional Education Associations are getting funds to set up or continue projects like the Sources of Strength program, which links at-risk youth with adults who can help.
The new report, titled "Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents," lists bullying and internet use as big suicide risk factors for young people. Report lead author and Dr. Benjamin Shain M.D., Ph.D. at NorthShore University HealthSystem, said online bullying can be as serious as face-to-face bullying.
"Both bully victims and bully perpetrators are affected," he said. "And the group that's affected the most is in the group who are both victims and perpetrators, had the highest increase in mental health concerns, suicidal thoughts and behaviors and suicides."
And while the report notes that more than 5 hours of internet use a day is strongly linked with high levels of depression, Dr. Shain warns that simply trying to block access to a teen's online social network likely won't help the situation. The report also lists suggestions to help pediatricians recognize warning signs and provide help. That includes familiarity with community resources and area mental health professionals.