Iowa students report a more than 50 percent increase in suicide risk

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More teenagers in Iowa made plans about how to take their own life.

It’s part of the results in the recently released 2018 Iowa Youth Survey.

The questionnaire of sixth, eighth and eleventh-grade students found a staggering jump of 53 percent in the last six years of the students who planned to take their own life.

That is 1 in 10 students. Also, 1 in 20 students also reported attempting suicide.

The sixth grade age group also saw a 71 percent increase in the reports of planned suicides according to the report. 

In eleventh grade students, girl students are reporting more thoughts and plans of students than boys.

Those who work in this field told Local 4 News one supportive step for teens is not to shy away from talking about this topic.

Life Connection Peer Recovery Services board member Tamara Schnepel said, “Reach out to these students. Let them know they are important.”

Being a teen has never been an easy assignment.

Schnepel said, “In a phase of their life where they’re trying to figure out who they are cause they’re not that child anymore and they’re not an adult. Where do I fit in this world.”

But a growing concern revealed by Iowa’s latest youth survey is the number of teens not just thinking but planning to take their life.

Robert Young Center Qualified Mental Health Professional Torri Smith said, “It’s definitely a community problem that we to address. It indicates that a lot more teens are experiencing probably depression and anxiety.”

Smith said that makes noticing what to look for critical. 

“We really need to pay attention to the warning signs for suicide and pay attention to the youths is they’re writing letters about death or about dying,” said Smith.

She added, “Youths that are engaging in self-harming behaviors or extremely depressed or isolating.”

Smith also told Local 4 News there’s a lot of reason to why someone might be thinking of suicide. Among teens, those include bullying, the stress of school or home life and social media.

Tamara Schnepel, a board member with Life Connections in DeWitt, said while it might be hard, parents and adults should sit down with kids and go over the struggles that come with life.

Schnepel said, “Life’s a box of chocolates, and you never know what you’re going to get and every day is a gamble.”

She added, “Parents need to be parents, but parents need to be somebody that the child can trust and just because I tell them something, I’m going to get in trouble. They need to feel that they can express their own feelings the way they know how.”

But Schnepel, who works as a teacher specializing in juvenile prevention, said that needs to be paired with another message of support. 

Schnepel said, “Kids see it [suicide] sometimes as their only option because they don’t feel they have anybody else, so it’s important that we reach out to our children and say we are here to help.”

 And by speaking, it helps to break down some of the barriers.

Smith said, “If we reduce the stigma, the youth may feel more comfortable about the thoughts that they’re having.” 

The Robert Young Center received a $100,000 grant in late 2018 specifically to address youth suicide prevention. 

Part of that has helped to create support groups for teens right now ages 12-15 to show they’re not alone when it comes to facing these feelings and to teach coping skills.

They plan to expand that to more age groups shortly and for parents. 

RYC Call the 24/7 Crisis Hotline: (309) 779-2999

The Youth Survey also found alcohol consumption among eleventh-grade students was down about a quarter of a percent, while the opposite was true for e-cigarettes up 23 percent.

The full results can be found here

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