In the last few weeks, four teenagers have committed suicide in Douglas County, south of Denver. During the same time period, a high school student in Westminster set himself on fire in his school’s cafeteria and eventually died.
Colorado has the eighth highest suicide rate in the country. For young people in the state, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Nationally, it’s the third leading cause of death for youths.
Experts say there are ways to pick up on signs of suicide if people are aware of them. They can include sudden changes in behavior, romantic problems or rebelliousness.
Richard Eveleigh directs the Second Wind Fund, a Colorado nonprofit that helps youth at risk of suicide get access to therapists. "All suicide is preventable," Eveleigh says.
One key is to know the signs. That's something Gage Crisp wishes he'd known five years ago, when a high school friend killed herself. He didn't see it coming -- but now the university student, who works with the Second Wind Fund, knows what to look for. He points out one surprising behavior: his friend wore a hoodie frequently. "That can cover up cutting," Crisp says. His friend, who he wished to keep anonymous, had begun cutting herself and fallen in with others who were also cutting, a sign of severe distress.
The incidents coincide with a recent study by the American Psychological Association that finds teens reporting extreme stress and anxiety. The study found teen stress to be even higher than the stress reported by adults. One cultural factor promoting such high levels of stress, says Richard Eveleigh, is that "Teens feel they have to be the best of the best."
The study also found teenagers aren’t finding good ways to cope with the stress. Researchers believe childhood stress can lead to a lifetime of problems and even suicide.