Northwest NEWS

June 14, 1999


It's better to have a friend mad at you than to have a friend who is dead

   In both the United States and Washington state, youth suicide is a major problem. Every year, 14 teens per 100,000 commit suicide. It is every adult's job to get off his or her duff and do something about it.

   You may be thinking: "What can I do? I'm only one person. Youth suicide is not a big problem." Youth suicide is a huge problem, and if nothing is done, things will only get worse.

   What is wrong with society today? You ask teens how they are doing, and then you hope and pray that their answer is "fine." You are not sure how to react to teens who say they are not okay, nor are you used to hearing this from them. The sad truth is that one out of five teens has seriously considered suicide as an option, and one in ten teens has actually attempted suicide.

   In the United States, it is estimated that one-half to one million teens attempt suicide annually. This makes youth suicide the leading cause of death among teens. What are you doing today that will help the youth suicide rate go down?

   As citizens of Washington, we should be very concerned about youth suicide. In 1995, Washington had the tenth highest youth suicide rate in the nation. Since then, the suicide rate has risen to approximately 16 youth suicides per 100,000 teens a year. This makes the youth suicide rate higher in Washington than in the rest of the United States.

   Youth suicide in our state occurs more often than homicide, making it the second leading cause of death among teens. What is it that makes teens feel so desperate that they see suicide as their only option or way out?

   The truth is that it is your job to help the youth suicide rate go down. You cannot just sit back and hope that it does not happen to someone you love and care about. You need to be willing to talk to teens who say they are not okay. You also need to be aware of problems and conflicts taking place in their lives.

   Take notice when out-of-the-ordinary behavior occurs. Most importantly, if you suspect a teen is suicidal, do not hesitate. Ask them if they are thinking of killing themselves.

   Remember, it is better to have a friend that is mad at you for asking, than a friend who is dead. If you know a teen in immediate danger of suicide, take them to the emergency room or call TEEN LINK at 206-461-4922 for help. TEEN LINK is a confidential, anonymous, and non-judgmental phone line for teens that is answered by teens.

Emily Jacobsen, Bothell