Children Suicide Rates Double Since 2007, A Preventable Problem

"We don't know we're in a crisis until it's too late."

At age 10, children should be outside playing with friends and having fun…
and not under so much stress that they want to harm themselves or take their own lives. But the CDC says that isn’t the case… and that child-suicide rates have doubled in less than 10 years. A problem that experts say is preventable.

“We, as adults, care givers and parents, don’t like to think about the fact that our children could be in such distress that they’d want to take their own lives,” said Suicide Prevention Director, for the 2-1-1 Helpline Center in Sioux Falls, Barbara Bettelyoun.

Unfortunately, according to data from the CDC released Thursday, that distress is a reality for children ages 10 through 14.

Since 2007 the suicide rate for children in that age group has doubled from 1 to 2 persons per 100,000. A number that is too high for Bettelyoun.

“We forget that children are exposed to a lot more than, for example, I was as a child because of the media and technology,” Barbara Bettelyoun, the Suicide Prevention Director for the 2-1-1 Helpline Center in Sioux Falls said. She said that children are exposed to violence in video games and on tv. Also adding that with the popularity of social media, like Facebook and Twitter, cyberbullying has also increased.

“A lot of information is accessible to children who may not have the capability or coping mechanisms to deal with that.”

But what they do have, Bettelyoun says, is a voice.
And the Director of Suicide Prevention at the 2-1-1 Helpline Center says they should not only use it but that parents, and/or guardians, need to listen.

“If they can’t talk about it they can’t reach out for help. So we really need to be stigma fighters and break down that taboo so that people who are in crisis feel that they have people they can talk with.”

To talk about something, Barbara Bettelyoun, Suicide Prevention Director for the 2-1-1 Helpline Center in Sioux Falls, says, that could as simple as feeling anxious.

“Feeling anxious, nervous, stressed out to the point where they’re not able to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night,” Bettelyoun listed, “they’re worrying to the point where they’re not eating like they used to,” she says are all signs that not only parents should look out for but also children should talk about.

“Children should know that that that is the time to they really want to reach out to an adult because those are signs that they might be crisis… and, quite often, we don’t know we’re in crisis until it’s too late.”

Bettelyoun also says that along with ending the stigma surrounding suicide, people need to end the stigma surrounding mental illness as well. She says that in 90% of the cases that involve a suicide, the patient usually had a mental illness. Elaborating that, specifically in this part of the country, the stigma is high about mental illness and that there isn’t a lot of resources available for those that need them.

However one resource, Barbara Bettelyoun, the Suicide Prevention Director for the 2-1-1 Helpline Center in Sioux Falls, says, is dialing 2-1-1 if you or someone you know is in a crisis. However, that service is not available to all of South Dakota and, if that’s the case, she says that people can call 1 (800) 273-8255

In participating high schools, teenagers can text “icare” to 898211 and get into contact with a member of the Helpline Center who’s available 24/7. Another available texting service is texting your area code to 898211.

In 2014, South Dakota ranked 3rd overall in the nation for youth suicide rates ages 15-24 and 18th for overall suicide rates.