Suicide is 2nd leading cause of death for teens; local doctors say problem is increasing

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SNOQUALMIE, Wash. — Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie is the latest district to send a warning to parents about the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

Many view the show as glamorizing teen suicide. It is about a teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves behind notes explaining the 13 reasons why she took her own life.

Dan Popp has two teenagers at Mount Si and he is also on the school board. His kids won’t be watching "13 Reasons Why," but he is also going way beyond that.

“Often I think what my children may be thinking, what they may be going through, what emotional distress they may be under; high school in particular is super stressful,” Popp said.

Popp added that he is constantly engaging his children and identifying moments in their life that are challenging and significant. He is urging all parents to do the same.

Suicides are the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Mount Si, like many high schools across the country, has been devastated by student suicides.

“Whether at Mount Si or elsewhere, I engage my kids, make sure they are dealing with that loss and what it might mean for them,” Popp said.

Dr. Molly Adrian, with Seattle Children’s, says engaging means asking direct questions.

“There has been a lot of concern that if you ask a teenager, are you thinking of suicide, is that planting a seed in their mind,” Adrian said.

Adrian added that if your child seems different than normal or withdrawn, you should ask point blank if they have ever thought of committing suicide.
If the answer is yes, stay calm and continue the conversation and ask more open-ended questions.

“How much time are you spending, are you thinking through this, have you taken any steps, have you thought through what you would do?” Adrian said.

The uncomfortable questions may yield answers that could save a teenager on the brink.

“Certainly if they feel like they are a burden to others, that’s a risk factor.”

Adrian said that if you are a teenager going through some tough times, it’s important to talk about your feelings. She also pointed out a national hotline where you can text for help. Text the word ‘Start’ to 741741 and a counselor will be there to help 24 hours a day 7 days a week. and are both good resources parents can turn to.

The Snoqualmie Valley School District says Mount Si has been working with UW to prevent suicides and to educate the community. Adrian says if your child is showing red flags or admits to thinking about suicide, make sure you call a professional for help immediately.

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