How N.C. churches can help prevent youth suicide
    May 16 2017 by Denise George

    High school students in North Carolina are attempting suicide at an increasing and alarming rate, especially girls between ages 10 to 14. In 2016, one in every 10 N.C. high school students attempted suicide. The number of completed youth suicides in the state has doubled since 2010. Forty-six young people died by suicide in 2015, compared to 23 in 2010. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death in N.C. for youth 10-14 years old, and the second leading cause of death in young people 15 years and older.


    Helpful resources
    North Carolina County Suicide Hotlines: (Most are available 24/7)
    • Ahoskie (serving Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton Counties) Hotline: (252) 332-4442
    • Alamance-Caswell: Hotline: (336) 513-4444
    • Carteret County: Hotline: (252) 247-3023
    • Chapel Hill (serving Orange, Person and Chatham areas) Hotline: (800) 233-6834
    • Charlotte (serving Mecklenburg County and surrounding areas) Hotline: (704) 377-0602
    • Clyde: Hotline: (800) 367-7287
    • Cumberland County: Hotline: (910) 485-4134
    • Durham County: Hotline: (800) 510-9132
    • Elkin (serving Iredell, Surry and Yadkin Counties) Hotline: 1 (888) 235-4673
    • Greensboro: Hotline: (4 p.m. – Midnight) (336) 387-6161
    • Halifax County: Hotline: (252) 537-2909
    • Johnston County: Teen Line: (919) 934-6162
    • Manteo (Outer Banks) Hotline: (252) 473-3366
    • Pitt County: Hotline: (252) 758-1976
    • Raleigh (serving Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh) Hotline: (919) 231-4525 or (800) 844-7410; Teen Talk line: (919) 231-3626
    • Randolph County: Hotline: (336) 629-0313
    • Salisbury: Hotline: (704) 633-3616
    • Sanford: Hotline: (919) 774-4520
    • Statesville: (704) 872-7638
    • Mooresville: (704) 664-4357
    • Wayne County: Hotline: (919) 735-4357
    • Wilmington (serving Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender Counties) Hotline: (910) 392-7408 or (800) 672-2903
    • Wilson Crisis Center: (252) 237-5156; Teen help line: (252) 243-6444
    • Winston-Salem: Hotline: (336) 722-5153; Kidsline: (336) 723-KIDS; Teen line: (336) 723-8336.
    State and National Suicide Prevention Resources:
    • Suicide Prevention Resource Center of North Carolina: Phone: (919) 356-2488
    • HopeLine North Carolina:; (919) 231-4525 or (877) 235-4525
    • Mental Health America of Central Carolinas:; (704) 365-3454
    • North Carolina Public Health: Suicide resources:; (800) 273-8255.
    • North Carolina Suicide Prevention Plan:
    • NAMI North Carolina:; (800) 451-9682
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:; (800) 273-8255
    • American Academy of Pediatrics:
    To better understand and prevent cyber bullying, see these websites:

    Nationwide, teenage boys are three times more likely to complete suicide as girls. Teen girls, however, attempt suicide at twice the rate as males.

    Why are young people killing themselves?

    Most youth and young adult suicides involve anxiety; drug or alcohol related problems; behavioral and relationship struggles; mood disorders; sexual or physical abuse; bipolar disorder (manic depression); physical illness; feelings of failure, loss, helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness; getting into trouble; problems in life; loneliness; making bad grades on tests; arguments; breaking up with a friend/love interest; a recent abortion; and confusion about sexual identity. Other reasons for adolescent attempted or completed suicide are:

    • Depression – It’s a main risk factor of suicide. According to a North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics study, almost one in four middle school students, 27 percent of high school students and 33 percent of young adults (aged 18-25) reported experiencing depression that interfered with normal activities for at least two weeks. High stress and pressure can trigger depression, as well as lack of community and family support. In the United States, depression increased among girls from about 13 percent in 2005 to about 17 percent in 2014. Some studies show that 20 percent of today’s teens experience depression at some point before they reach adulthood.
    • Divorce – One study found that children, especially boys, with divorced parents are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. When children grow up in a fractured home, they are more susceptible to mental, physical, educational and social problems. In America today, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples divorce. North Carolina is one state that requires couples to live separately for one year before they can get a divorce.
    • Bullying and Cyber Bullying – Increasingly, bullying and cyber bullying are causing young people to take their own life. Bullies are using online forums to terrorize their classmates without fear of punishment. Across the U.S., more than one-third of teens admit they have been cyber bullied or know someone who has. Cyber bullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or targeted by another child, preteen or teen using electronic technology.

    This type of bullying is especially difficult for teens because:

    • It can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
    • Messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly and widely;
    • Messages and images cannot be easily deleted after posting.


    How can N.C. churches help?

    While some suicides are impossible to prevent, most are believed to be preventable. The church can be instrumental in its efforts to help prevent teen suicide.
    Here are some suggestions:

    • Take opportunities to preach and teach (from the pulpit, and in Bible study classes) on the value of God-created life, the effects of cyber bullying and the tragedy of teen suicide.
    • Build strong children and youth programs that create safe and welcoming environments for the church’s young people to meet, talk, learn and fellowship. Encourage your youth to talk about cyber bullying. Pray with and for your young people.
    • Invite Christian professionals to speak to your congregation, offering classes to build healthy family relationships and seminars dealing with depression, cyber bullying, teen suicide and other issues.
    • Require pastors of children/youth to take mental health first aid training through an organization like the National Alliance on Mental Illness North Carolina. Teach them to know what’s happening among their young people; to recognize the signs of cyber bullying, depression and potential teen suicide; and to respond appropriately.
    • Create a network and updated list of trusted mental-health professionals/resources for immediate referral.

    If, in spite of your efforts, teen suicide occurs within your congregation, take action immediately:  

    • Minister to grieving family and church members, showing them the love of Christ. Be a patient presence, praying with those affected. Refer them to Christian grief counselors and others for help.
    • Bring together church and community members. Invite professionals to speak, addressing the suicide and its cause. Mourn the loss. Hold a remembrance service. Be available to help family members arrange funeral/burial arrangements.
    • Watch for signs of “copy-cat” or “clustered” suicides. Teen suicide can often trigger tendencies that cause others to imitate the tragic act.


    Some suicide warning signs

    Every day in our nation, 5,240 young people (grades 7-12) attempt suicide. Eight out of ten people considering suicide give signs of their intentions. People who threaten or talk about suicide, or call suicide crisis centers are 30 times more likely to kill themselves.

    Take action when a person:

    • endures bullying or cyber-bullying
    • expresses suicidal thoughts
    • shows increased irritability, loss of concentration or motivation
    • withdraws from family and friends
    • experiences a drop in grades
    • is unable to sleep or eat
    • loses interest in personal appearance and favorite activities
    • shows signs of depression
    • abuses alcohol or drugs
    • is involved in abusive dating relationships
    • frequently runs away or is arrested
    • loses family members or experiences problems with parents
    • becomes (unplanned) pregnant
    • shows impulsive, aggressive behavior; frequent expressions of rage


    Responding to potential suicide

    If someone mentions or shows signs of suicide:

    • Do not leave the person alone.
    • Remove firearms, medications and other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
    • Call the police or the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
    • Take him or her to an emergency room or seek help from a mental health professional.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Denise George, author of 30 books, is co-author of the new Penguin Random House book: The Lost Eleven: The Forgotten Story of Black American Soldiers Brutally Massacred in World War II. She is married to Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University.)

    5/16/2017 11:45:49 AM by Denise George | with 0 comments

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