New study shows suicide rates doubling, California experts respond

The Santa Clarita Valley Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee meets at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

A new study released this past week reports that more kids are either thinking about or attempting suicide. The rates have doubled over the last decade, researchers at Vanderbilt University found.

This comes on the heels of season 2 of the hit Netflix show “13 Reasons Why,” which centers on the aftermath of a student’s suicide, and was released May 18.

A database of visits at 49 children’s hospitals for kids aged 5 to 17 found girls made up two-thirds of the cases studied by the university. Rates of visiting the hospital were higher during the school year, with only 18.5 percent of suicide ideation and attempts occuring during summer months.

There’s disagreement among experts on the correlation between high levels of anxiety and suicide attempts; however, there is agreement on the constant need to promote resources and make help available.

Anxiety is tied to a lot of suicide-related issues, according to Santa Monica psychiatrist Soroya Bacchus.

“Anxiety is really the root of so many other issues including an increase in suicide, drug use, alcoholism and many other problems,” she said. “I have patients for example coming to me and saying I have ADHD, and I say, no you don’t, you have anxiety. That anxiety leads to even more fear and isolation and then offshoots into other issues.”

However, Larry Schallert, assistant director of College of the Canyons’ Student Health and Wellness Center’s mental health program, noted suicide is a result of many sorts of phenomenon, from depression to mental illness to bullying due to disabilities to post-traumatic stress.

He cautioned against oversimplifying the problem.

“Anxiety can lead to feeling suicidal, but I wouldn’t say it’s a major reason,” he said. “I think it’s really simplifying it to say it’s just anxiety. It’s way more complex than that. There’s many more diagnoses and environmental situations that could be the root cause. It’s never really one thing.”

Schallert and other local service providers and community members formed the Santa Clarita Valley Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee in response to concerns about growing suicide.

When young adults commit suicide, their friends and family members may be at higher risk of taking their lives in the next year, Schallert said.

“We have extensive resources for people that might be suicidal,” he said. “(At College of the Canyons) we have a personal counseling program that offers crisis counseling to students. Several therapists are on site that are licensed. We have outreach services all year round where we try to let people know about our services, but we also do outreach programs where people know what the warning signs are and we do trainings.”

Social media can contribute to depression and isolation, but it’s hard to pin down one cause of anxiety, Schallert said.

Schallert and the local committee’s goal is to encourage members of the community to be aware of the warning signs and feel comfortable addressing a person they suspect is depressed and anxious is of the utmost importance.

For those considering suicide, call the 24-hour prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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