SNOW HILL — With Worcester County suicide rates reported to be the highest in Maryland, representatives from the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund’s Worcester County Youth Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program spoke to the Board of Education this week about ways to stem the tide in teens.
“It is literally killing people,” said Program Manager Hope Hutira-Green of suicide. “It is literally killing our kids.”
According to Hutira-Green, it is the fifth leading cause of death in children 5-14 and the third in youth 15-24, coming in only below accidents and homicide.
Since the 1950s, said Hutira-Green, suicide rates in the United States have tripled to the point today where roughly 1,400 youth take their own lives every day. Perhaps most disturbing, Hutira-Green reported that Worcester and Wicomico counties are well above state average in suicide rates, with Worcester the highest in Maryland at 47.5 percent above the average.
The statistics are shocking, admitted Hutira-Green, and made more so because most people have no idea how severe an issue suicide is. Because the media doesn’t cover suicides and the majority of suicide attempts go unreported, Hutira-Green informed the board that members of the public often don’t notice warning signs in youth until it is too late.
Hoping to confront that, Hutira-Green’s organization will visit schools to organize training for educators, administrators and staff.
“We can come into schools to present ‘gatekeeper’ training,” she said.
Teaching adults how to spot warning signs could save a huge number of lives, said Hutira-Green. She told the board of a specific recent incident where a teen made an offhanded comment to a bus driver about not seeing him the next week. When the driver contacted officials, they intervened and most likely saved the boy’s life when they learned that not only did he have a suicide plan but had already written the note.
It is awareness of the depth of the problem and attention to student behavior that will most effectively impact suicide rates, said Hutira-Green. Already her organization offers monthly support groups, co-sponsored by the Worcester County Health Department, and has scheduled a series of school presentations.
Hutira-Green told the board the fund would like to see even more development in the partnership between the organization and schools.
The board unanimously agreed that more information needs to be available to students and educators. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes thanked Hutira-Green and Fund President Kim Klump for “making a viable program” aimed at suicide prevention.
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