suicide

This story is part of our NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

Patricia Tolson has some visitors.

Two 5-year-old girls, best-friends, hold hands in her office at Van Ness Elementary School in Washington D.C., one complaining she doesn't feel well. Tolson, the school nurse, asks, "How long has your stomach been hurting?"

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is requesting more than $830,000 over the next two years to make upgrades aimed at reducing suicides in the county jail. This year, three inmates have killed themselves, a number county corrections staff say is deeply concerning.

“You know, it’s hard to prevent someone from harming themselves when they’re really intent on doing it. But we have an obligation to mitigate the risks in our facilities as we learn about them," said Ric Bishop, the county’s Chief Corrections Deputy.

Every day, thousands of teens attempt suicide in the U.S. — the most extreme outcome for the millions of children in this country who struggle with mental health issues.

As we've reported all week, schools play a key role, along with parents and medical professionals, in identifying children who may be at risk of suicide. And one of the biggest challenges: myths that can cloud their judgment.

At first Giselle wasn't sure what to put on her medical school application. She wanted to be a doctor, but she also wanted people to know about her own health: years of depression, anxiety and a suicide attempt. (We're using only her first name in this story, out of concern for her future career.)

"A lot of people were like, you don't say that at all," she said. "Do not mention that you have any kind of weakness."

The leading cause of death among teenagers in the U.S. is road accidents — killing nearly 5,000 American kids between the ages of 10 and 19 in 2013.

Suicide also emerges as a risk when puberty hits — affecting more than 5,000 teens and early 20-somethings in the United States alone in 2013.

In Latin America and Mexico, homicide kills the most young adults between the ages of 20 and 24, while in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS kills the largest number.

And in China, drowning tops the list of causes of teenage death.

Last week, NPR published a special report on suicide in Native Arctic communities. Reporter Rebecca Hersher spent 10 weeks in Greenland, the Arctic country with the highest known suicide rate in the world: 82.8 suicides per 100,000 people each year — six times higher than the U.S. suicide rate. She interviewed Inuit people in the Greenlandic capital, Nuuk, and in small towns on the country's remote east coast. She spoke with community leaders and mental health professionals who are trying to prevent suicide and come to terms with its underlying causes.

How do you help someone who is at risk of suicide?

That's a question that haunts the people of Greenland, the country with the highest known rate of suicide in the world and the subject of a special NPR report this week. The rate is about 80 per 100,000, and the group at highest risk is young Inuit men.

But it's a question that anyone, anywhere, might ask. Every year, about 1 million people kill themselves worldwide; preventing suicides is an issue every culture deals with.

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.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

PORTLAND – According to government statistics, American Indians are 70 percent more likely to die by suicide than the general population. The high suicide rate has been called a "silent epidemic." But it's silent no more.

Prevention workers at a health workshop in Portland are hoping teen-generated web videos, music and even a comic book can save lives.