CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — Suicide is now the leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14 in Ohio, according to a report from the Ohio Department of Health about suicide in Ohio.
The report, which highlights an increasing number of suicides across different age groups in Ohio, also notes that suicides are the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 34.
A survey from the Centers for Disease Control in 2017 already showed students in Cleveland were at high risk for attempting suicide, with two of every ten students in the city’s school district trying to take their own lives.
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide or need to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or, if you’re in Cuyahoga County, call FrontLine Service at (216) 623-6888.
The CDC survey showed kids in Cleveland are exposed to higher rates of adverse childhood experiences than in other places in the nation.
“Those are things like poverty, like community violence, like domestic violence, parental separation,” Dr. Brittany Myers said. “And those things do contribute to stress in kids.”
Myers is a pediatric psychologist at MetroHealth Medical Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She said this issue is concerning and something that’s probably been increasing for some time.
“Now we have numbers to say, ‘We need more resources, we need more monitoring, we need more screening and kids are in need of help,’” Myers said.
Myers said children or young people will often reach out when they need help or are having thoughts of hurting themselves, turning to a family member, teacher or trusted adult.
“Treat it like an emergency,” Myers said. “Call 911. Go to the nearest emergency room. Everybody there has resources to further evaluate the situation and I’d rather us take it seriously.”
She said at MetroHealth, doctors and psychologists work together for integrated primary care, allowing parents to come forward with concerns at primary care appointments for their child and speak with a psychologist the same day or soon thereafter.
If a child doesn’t reach out, there are other warning signs, according to Dr. Tatiana Falcone, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic who has studied suicide prevention for several years. She encouraged parents to observe changes in their child’s behavior.
“Like if their kid suddenly is not going to school or is refusing to do their homework, or suddenly they don’t want to do the activities that they used to enjoy,” Falcone said. “Or sometimes in adolescents, you see the opposite. Like they get super cranky and they don’t want to be part of the family. They don’t want to get out with their parents or brothers and sisters anymore.”
Falcone also said it’s important for parents to be open with their children.
“I think the most important message to parents is asking questions about suicide is really not going to make it worse, and it’s actually an avenue to open the conversation,” Falcone said.
Falcone said many children who survive a suicide attempt may try again in the future, making follow-up care, wraparound services, therapy and case management critical.
For more information on suicide prevention and mental health awareness, visit these links:
There are also some digital resources that may be beneficial to someone who is struggling: