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Preventing Youth Suicide

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans aged 15 to 29 – and the youth suicide rate has tripled in the last 35 years.

“There’s no one factor” behind the increase, said Amy Florian of Stauros USA. Among others, she suggests, families are more “scattered,” and kids face “higher expectations” than ever, both in and out of school. Psychological help is not always available or accepted. And traditionally lower suicide rates among black and Latino youth are now climbing.

Another factor: “Guns are so much more readily available,” Florian said. “The vast majority of teen suicides are by gun,” she said.

Stauros USA is sponsoring the city’s first conference on youth and young adult suicide on Friday, September 7, at Catholic Theological Union, 5401 S. Cornell. Two dozen workshops are aimed at young people and family members as well as school and health care professionals.

Successful youth-oriented programs to promote mental health and prevent suicide will be discussed by leaders and staff of nonprofits that work in local schools, including Erika’s Lighthouse and Elyssa’s Mission, both named for young people who took their own lives, as well as Suicide Prevention Services of Fox Valley.

Florian emphasizes statistics showing that four out of five youth who do kill themselves give warning signs – whether that means withdrawing from friends and family or making comments about dying – and that youth education programs enable kids to help their peers as well as themselves.

Support for survivors will be discussed by staff from Willow House, a bereavement center with services in north and west suburbs and Chicago, and Catholic Charities’ LOSS program, a support center for people who are grieving a death by suicide.

Other workshops will address suicide in black, Hispanic, and Asian communities; post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide risk among veterans and non-veterans; and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues.

Registration forms are available at www.stauros.org.

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