Adolescent rural suicide rates on the rise

By Jennifer Cannon
Staff Writer, The Free Press

Posted Feb. 10, 2016 at 12:01 AM

In 2013, 17 percent of United States high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC also reported that in 2013, suicide rates in rural communities were almost twice as high as suicide rates in large central metropolitan areas.

“The warning signs often go unnoticed,” Courtney Boyette, Eastpointe Community Relations Specialist, said. “We’d like to reach out to the schools, the teachers and the guidance counselors because they see these kids a lot during the day and sometimes, I don’t think people realize, school is a respite for some of these kids if they have a lot of issues going on at home.”

Adolescents may exhibit disruptive or self-destructive behaviors when dealing with a crisis.

“You might see the kids acting out more but they need some type of attention,” Boyette said. “It might be they need treatment or counseling for something going on in their life and sometimes they’re identified by negative behaviors but there’s more to the picture. If you see a child crying out for help you want to make sure they’re linked to the proper resources.”

There is also a correlation between bullying and kids at suicide risk, Boyette said.

“One thing I’ve learned is there’s a lot of adults and adolescents who see their primary care doctor in the months leading up to a suicide attempt or actually taking their lives so we want to raise that awareness to everybody that has contact with people who are at risk,” she said.

Lenoir Memorial Hospital and Eastpointe will host the education session “Adolescent Suicide: Prevention and Intervention,” presented by Mona Townes, mobile crisis director with Integrated Family Services.

“She’s trying to gear it towards guidance counselors, nurses, primary caregivers, people who don’t have a background in mental health or that’s just not their area of expertise in general,” Boyette said.

While an hour limits what Townes can talk about, she hopes it will lead those in attendance to further their education.

“It’s really going to be geared towards talking about ways of preventing adolescent suicide, how to intervene and risk factors,” Townes said. “I’m also going to be talking about protective factors or things we want this youth to have in place to keep them safe.”

She will also discuss the proper ways to refer to suicide and suicidal behaviors and those most at risk.

“I hope the audience leaves at the least knowing what questions to ask and what are resources that all youth should have access to if they are feeling suicidal,” Townes said.

Gail Carraway at the Minges Wellness Center said the hospital is offering the session to educate the community, not just healthcare providers.

“We hope that it’s a helpful resource for people to be able to have access to the information that’s available,” she said.

There are several resources available in the community to help families who are concerned about a suicidal relative.

The Mobile Crisis Response units are available to those with and without insurance by calling Easter Seals at 1-800-913-6109 or Integrated Family Services at 1-866-437-1821.

Paul Savery of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Community Wellness, Prevention and Health Integration Team also wants people to know there’s now an app to help those at risk for suicide.

A Friend Asks is a free smart-phone app that helps provide the information, tools and resources to help a friend who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide.

The Adolescent Suicide: Prevention and Intervention program will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on Feb. 24 in the Lenoir Memorial Hospital Auditorium. To register, call 919-587-0333 or email

Jennifer Cannon can be reached at 252-559-1073 or at
Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JennCannonKFP.

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Posted in Community, Events, Mental Health, Services