Alarming Jump in Youth Suicide Prompts Call to Action

Aug 1, 2013

King County saw an unexpected spike in youth suicides last year, prompting a group of experts to push for much wider awareness of how to prevent suicide.

Eleven kids took their own lives in King County last year – almost triple the average year, and the highest total since at least 1999.

The 37-member Child Death Review Committee dug into the statistics, and it didn’t find any overall upward trend in youth suicides. But the members did agree on a number of things people should be doing to prevent more, such as having more teachers and school personnel trained to spot warning signs and connecting kids with help.

Annie Kirk, a violence and injury prevention specialist at Public Health – Seattle & King County – said kids shouldn’t have to seek out that kind of expertise. It should just be all over.

“Very similarly to how CPR training is offered in so many different organizations and communities, we want the same when it comes to suicide risk assessment,” Kirk said.

As of July 28, a new law requires teachers and school staff in Washington to get that kind of training. A push to mandate training for doctors failed in the Legislature.

The King County panel also recommends ordinary citizens get better acquainted with the warning signs for suicide. And it urges families to lock up their firearms: Gunshots are the second-leading cause of youth suicide in the county.