It’s a touch subject to talk about; teen suicide. One in six Maryland high school students has seriously considered killing themselves. One mother who lost her son is now on a mission save other families from that grief.
“I think there’s so much stigma and so many taboos around suicidal thinking we’re really afraid to ask kids about it,” Susan Rosenstock, co-founder of UMTTR and suicide prevention advocate, told ABC2.
It’s a trend you may not think you have to worry about.
“10-15% of youth have suicidal thoughts in their adolescent stage,” said Dr. Larry Epp, Director of School Mental Health Services, Sheppard Pratt.
Over 17% of Maryland high school students consider suicide.
“Suicidal thinking is never normal. It’s not normal growing pains and I think that’s why we don’t intervene,” Epp said.
Young people are now turning to social media to glorify self-harm; adding another player to the pressures of the growing up.
“It could be your appearance, it could be your popularity, it could be worries about whether you’ll be accepted for your sexual orientation, it could be worries about your family,” said Epp.
Epp and Rosenstock are on the front lines; together they hope to give this issue the attention it deserves.
“We need to continue to communicate, educate and motivate parents to understand the difference between typical teenage behavior and really a more serious problem,” Rosenstock said.
Rosenstock is the co-founder of UMTTR, an organization created after her own son, Evan committed suicide.
“Four different kids at completely different times, from different walks of his life came to me with the same statement and said if this could happen to Evan, this could happen to anyone and we’re scared.”
It’s Evan’s legacy. A beacon of hope advocating suicide prevention and awareness. Many of its members, kids themselves.
“Kids know kids. They see them and then from there we try to identify where the trusted adults are in their life,” Rosenstock said.
Saving lives keeps her going. Evan took his life 3 years ago. She noticed a change in him after a sports injury. Her son was suffering from depression.
“He said he felt different so we took him for a battery of physical tests. he said if they all come back normal, I’d like to go see somebody because I feel different,” said Rosenstock.
Evan went to a psychiatrist and was prescribed a medication that worsened his depression.
“He didn’t feel like himself and got help as he should and unfortunately the medication was what increased his thoughts of suicide and ended up taking his life,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide is the third leading cause of death for Maryland youth.
“Now we’re seeing suicidal thinking trickle down even into our elementary schools,” said Epp.
Some as young as third grade. Rosenstock recruits young peer leaders across the state to help reach out to those in trouble in high schools, college campuses and beyond.
“Having a student organization on campus like this will help take away the stigma and get students talking about it,” said Sivan Silo, of the UMTTR Towson Club at Towson University.
Rosenstock and other experts out exactly that; talking. She said it could be the best defense against suicide along with knowing the signs.
“Change in personality, agitation, withdrawn, poor self-care and hopelessness,” listed Rosenstock.
UMTTR peer leaders like Silo, have already helped struggling teens nationwide.
“One of my friends didn’t even know that she was depressed until I asked her and she ended up going therapy,” said Silo.
Rosenstock believes that if she can touch just one child, that’s enough.
“We do know we’re saving lives. I do have to say that I’ve been humbled and very excited about when there have been kids that come up to me and say you saved my life,” said Rosenstock.
And that’s what keeps her on the quest to save the next teen.
If you or someone you know needs help there are many free resources available. There’s even a crisis text line you can access just by texting 741-741.
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