Preventing teen suicide begins at home
By Sheriff Scott Israel
In my nearly 40 years in law enforcement, I have chased and brought countless criminals to justice, operated undercover, worked as SWAT commander and now proudly serve as sheriff to the 1.8 million residents of Broward. Yet all that pales in comparison to my most challenging and rewarding job: father to my triplets – Blair, Brett and Blake.
As any parent can attest, our children are our most prized treasures. From the instant you first lock eyes with your newborns to the moment they pack up to go to college or set out to begin their careers, our most important job is ensuring the safety and security of our children.
While we share in the exhilaration of their successes, we also live in constant worry about their well-being as they ride the roller coaster ups and downs all children face daily as they come of age. Sadly, despite our best efforts as parents, some of our children struggle to overcome these obstacles. The enormous pressures they face lead some to tragically take their own lives.
As a parent, we often choose to believe that these types of tragedies can never happen to us. The startling statistics, however, say otherwise.
Each year in the United States, thousands of teens commit suicide and many more at-tempt to take their lives. In fact, suicide is a leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. A recent survey showed one in six high school students seriously considered taking their own lives, and one in 13 reported attempting suicide. These alarming statistics are even more troubling considering suicides and attempted suicides are on the rise.
There are a wide range of reasons why teens attempt to take their lives. These include depression, bullying, drug abuse, eating disorders, break ups and general insecurities. Aside from the normal challenges of growing up, our children now must also contend with new technology including social media, which exponentially magnifies exposure from just a handful of people to potentially dozens if not hundreds or thousands. As we all know, the internet can be a tool for good, but can also lead to hatred, intolerance and indecency.
Recently, this reared its ugly head in the form of a new, dangerous and potentially deadly “game,” the Blue Whale Challenge. The game encourages individuals to complete 50 self-harming challenges with the final task requiring that individual to commit suicide. Reports claim it is responsible for the deaths of 130 teens in Russia, but these have not been verified. Elsewhere online, bullying runs rampant. Parents must remain vigilant about what their children do online.
While it may be difficult for us to understand why our sons or daughters would take their own lives or what motivates them to do so, there are steps we can take to prevent teen suicide. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs; talk openly and candidly with your children; and know how to react and where to go for professional help if needed.
If a loved one is harming him/herself or if you believe he/she is in immediate danger, call 911. For more questions and answers, dial 2-1-1 for Broward 2-1-1.
Through education and awareness, we all can help prevent teen suicide.