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Risk factors for teen suicide, prevention

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Experts say parents need to be aware some children are more at risk for suicide than others.

One of the biggest risk factors of suicide is exposure; witnessing it first hand or just knowing the person.

It may be a frightening thought for parents but communication can be the key to preventing it from happening in your family.

Lanette Kaiser, a licensed professional counselor with St. Anthony Hospital, said, "We're all under stress."

No matter our age, life happens and stress is a part of it.

While many may say teens have little to worry about, the reality is their world is full of anxiety.

Dr. Andrea Larabee, the Health and Wellness Coordinator for Deer Creek Public Schools, said, "Kids have stressors as well and they try to cope with those and sometimes those are beyond their ability to cope."

Experts said teens have a different set of risk factors than adults:

  • Break up with a significant other or a friend
  • Bullying or social rejection
  • Illness
  • Exposure to the death or suicide of a friend, family member or classmate

Kaiser said, "You want to talk to them about their emotions and how they're feeling."

Ask specific questions.

Kaiser said, "Have you ever thought about harming yourself? Have your friends thought about harming themselves?"

A few years back the Deer Creek School District noticed a rise in the number of suicides in their own district, prompting them to take action.

Working with the community, teachers, school counselors and students, they developed a health and wellness program where students have on-campus resources including access to counselors and support groups.

School officials want to help students to deal with the stress of life.

Larabee said, "I know in Deer Creek this has been a program that teachers and students have really embraced that has been invaluable."

While that program has been successful, the basic lesson is to have an open door of communication with your child.

Kaiser said, "If we don't talk to them about the little things it's harder for them to talk to us about the bigger things in life."

If your child has heard about what happened in Stillwater Wednesday, experts said now is a good time to have a conversation with them.

Experts suggest seeing how they feel about what has happened and answer any questions they may have.

Also, experts said anytime someone makes a suicide threat, call 911 or take that person to an emergency room so they can talk with a trained professional who can assess the situation.

MORE INFO: Preventing teen suicide