A child psychiatrist says the latest in a string of suicides by students at Southeast Polk High School in Central Iowa should be a signal for parents to talk about the issue. The latest student became the fifth take his own life in the last eight months. Doctor Kevin Took of the Counseling Center of Central Iowa says parents need to address the issue.
Took says it’s a good time to use the Southeast Polk suicides to ask your children if they’ve ever thought about suicide or if their friends have. Took says it opens the lines of communication on the issue. He says once you talk about it, you can help your kids.
He says if the child says they say they feel horrible and do wish they were dead, then you need to have them evaluated by a professional. Took says it is human nature to want to memorialize a classmate who has committed suicide, but the doctor says that’s the Centers for Disease Control and other experts give different advice.
Took says they advise that you in no way glorify a suicide. "So that means don’t do the candlelight vigils, don’t do wristbands all the kids wear at school, don’t do videos that you put on YOUTUBE to memorialize these children. Sure the kids should grieve, but grieve in their own small peer groups with their own families. Do not glorify or sensationalize this in any way, that’s a key factor," he says.
Took says suicidal thoughts are not uncommon among teens. He says studies show the "unbelievable numbers" that in the past 12 months, one in every four girls and one in every six males have seriously though about suicide. "Now there’s a big difference between thinking about it, and actually attempting." Took says you should be aware of some of the factors that might lead a child to think of suicide.
Took says 90% of young people who commit suicide have a psychiatrist diagnosis, which is most commonly depression. So, he says you should keep an eye out for signs of depression, or to make sure they aren’t abusing substances or drinking, as he says knowing what kids are doing is key.
Took says letting kids know they can talk is also important. He says if your kids say they have never felt like killing themselves, then you should tell them to let you know if they ever do, as if you bring up the issue, they know it is safe for them to bring up. Took says one other thing to do is to keep the means to do harm to themselves away from kids.
Took says teens will often have suicidal thoughts if they break up with a boyfriend, or girlfriend, and if guns or medications are out of reach, and the means aren’t available, then the child will not harm themselves. Officials at Southeast Polk are working with students to deal with the problem there.