What is being done to help prevent teen suicides in the Panhandle

Published: Oct. 23, 2019 at 5:59 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Suicide rates in teens have risen 56 percent nationwide according to a recent CDC report, making suicide the second leading cause of death, following death by accidents.

When it comes to Amarillo, the suicide review team typically reports about 40 deaths by suicide per year. With three months left in the year, there are currently 42 deaths recorded.

“When you have you know, kids that are 14/15 years old up to young adults at 24 that are in a high teen suicide rate that has a high mental health rate of seeking mental health, courses, aid, doctors or psychiatrist, you’ve got a real problem. You hate to use the phrase, ‘It was different in my day than it is now,’ but it is,” said Dave Clark, Chairman of Panhandle Behavioral Health Alliance.

There are a lot of factors that go into this issue, and health officials are doing their best to address all involved.

“Everyone can agree that being a teenager is hard. I think as times develop and we continue to grow as a society, sometimes those struggles being to grow as well. Our teens nowadays are having more and more things on their plate that’s weighing them down. So I can see how that is adding to that struggle and thoughts of suicide,” said Mackenzie Ellis, member of Texas Panhandle Prevention Coalition.

Mental health experts say while it is awkward to talk about mental health and feelings, it is necessary.

“For those parents that are already seeing the signs in their teens. That is, they’re isolating themselves. They see self harm, grades are going down. I mean, there are so many things that could happen. I mean, talk to your kids, but that’s what we’ve seen. If you see signs or you want to get your kid screened, or you just want your kid to talk to someone, you can always take them to our downtown office,” said Crystal Morton, Mental Health First Aid Outreach Coordinator at Texas Panhandle Centers.

There are schools in the region already educating their staff on mental health.

“As someone who works with canyon ISD, I know that we are trying to increase our staff in the youth mental health first aid. I know that AISD has added trainers to their staff as well to try and train their teachers and principals and things of that nature as well. I think it is something in our communities people are trying to catch on more and get more education in that to help our students in our communities,” said Ellis.

But Morton adds it’s going to take a community to help.

“You know, let us help our teens. Let’s get them the help that they need. Let’s give them a voice. Let’s make them feel like they’re important, and let’s get them the resources they need within our community,” said Morton.

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