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Jump in Youth Suicide Prompts National Children's Charity KidsPeace to Issue Tips on Prevention, Warning Signs

NEW YORK, Sept. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Following today's startling survey by the Centers for Disease Control reporting the largest jump (8%) in youth suicide in more than 15 years, the 125-year-old national children's crisis charity KidsPeace is issuing a raft of expert tips and resources to help youngsters, parents and schools nationwide make sure they know the warning signs, life-saving tips, and free resources to prevent tragedies wherever possible.

"From abuse and neglect, to bullying, eating disorders, peer pressure -- even fears of war and terrorism -- the strain on kids today is unprecedented and sometimes it may become too much to bear," says Dr. Peter Langman, director of psychology for KidsPeace, which helps thousands of children each day at 66 crisis centers. "When this happens, kids begin to seek some form of escape from their woes and in the most severe cases, when there does not appear to be an alternative, children may even turn to suicide to free themselves from the pain, grief, dread, or despair they are suffering."

Why Would A Child Take Her Life?

There are a number of reasons why children, like adults, may find themselves thinking the unthinkable. At the core of all motivating factors lies a desperate need to cope with a situation that may seem beyond remedy. The most important reasons include:

* Ending an unresolved conflict

* Ending suffering of acute or prolonged pain (emotional or physical)

* Escape from an unbearable situation

* Grief and loss

* Desire to join a deceased loved one

* Means of self-punishment

* Anger at others

* Act of defiance, punishment of survivors, or revenge

* Means of gaining status or "fame"

* Copycat intent -- following a school suicide, the chance of a second

one increases by 300%

Spotting the Warning Signs

"There are a number of risk factors, signs and symptoms that might provide hints or clues that a child is contemplating or planning to attempt suicide," says Dr. Herbert Mandell of the KidsPeace Children's Hospital in Orefield, Pennsylvania. The most important signals to look out for are:

* Prior history of attempted suicide or suicide by someone close to the


* Writings about suicide (poems, stories, etc.)

* Indirect threats ("I wish I was dead.") or direct threats ("I'm going

to kill myself.")

* Preoccupation with death including:

-- Talking about death or compulsively thinking about and longing

for a dead person

-- Sudden, intense interest in religion and afterlife

-- Making final arrangements (writing a will, talking about their

funeral, etc.)

-- Giving away prized possessions

-- Creating artwork or writing or listening to music about


-- Visible changes in behavior, physical condition, thoughts, or

feelings such as withdrawal, isolation, or loss of interest in

social interaction

* Diminished involvement in usual interests, activities, or hobbies

* Increased risk-taking behaviors, recklessness, or aggressiveness

* Decreased academic performance

* Increased use of alcohol or drugs

* Crying easily

* Abrupt changes in appearance

* Recent weight or appetite change

* Change in sleep patterns

* Exhaustion, extreme drowsiness

* Inability to concentrate or think rationally

* Exaggerated fears, extreme anxiety, or depression

* Low self-esteem

* Hopelessness or helplessness

* Increased irritability or anger, mood swings or withdrawal from


* Stress from difficult situations including the inability to cope with

loss (such as divorce, breaking with a boy/girlfriend, loss of a job

or status, death of a loved one

* Feelings of worthlessness

* A victim mentality caused by physical, sexual or emotional abuse

Suicide More Common Among Young People

Learning the facts is increasingly important. "Not only is suicide the third leading cause of death among young people 15 to 24 years of age, but from 1980-1996 the rate of suicide among 10- to 14-year-olds increased by 100 percent. Since 1950, the suicide rate for white females ages 15-24 has doubled, and for white males ages it has tripled."

Information & Resources

"Children and parents should know they are not alone," says KidsPeace President & CEO C.T. O'Donnell II. "A variety of free informational efforts and resources exist to help in these stressful times." Here are a few:

* offers a free, downloadable suicide information and

prevention brochure, along with many other prevention materials to help

lessen the stresses on today's kids

* is a free, safe, and anonymous problem-solving

resource where older kids and teens can go to find hope, encouragement,

and clinically screened advice to defuse crises in their young lives

before they become overwhelming

KidsPeace is a 125-year-old national children's charity dedicated to helping America's kids avoid and overcome the kinds of crises that can strike any child -- from traumas to neglect, depression, and the stresses of modern life. Founded in 1882 in Bethlehem, Pa., KidsPeace helps thousands of children a day at 65 centers nationally and millions more through public education and outreach with the support of its National Spokesperson and founder of the Memory Foundation Leeza Gibbons, Harvard's Dr. Alvin Poussaint, RETRO BILL, and other notables. KidsPeace was called "the outstanding organization" of its kind by the American Association of Psychiatric Services for Children and "a prototype of what we need for all children everywhere" by family expert Dr. Lee Salk. For more information, go to .

Contact: Mark Stubis

Vice President


SOURCE KidsPeace
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