More teen suicides in Douglas County; prevention program says 'Talk to your kids'

Four teenagers have taken their own lives in the last 13 days, according to the Douglas County coroner, Lora Thomas.

At this time, the suicides do not appear to be related to each other in any way. The number has doubled since 7NEWS reported on two of the incidents on Tuesday, both suicides of students from Douglas County High School.

Since then, 7NEWS reporter Lance Hernandez discovered the suicide deaths of two more teenagers in the county. In total, four suicides occurred: two on Jan. 31, one this past Saturday and one on Tuesday.  

Thomas would not comment on these incidents, but said that in general, mental illness is found to be involved in many suicides. She also stated that the perception that families do not take steps to help children who express suicidal thoughts is usually inaccurate.

"Most families are aware of the mental health issue and have gone through extraordinary lengths to try to get help," Thomas said.

In Arapahoe County, the coroner stated that about 60 suicides occur each year on average. In 2011, Arapahoe County saw 105 suicides. Less than five percent were between the ages of 11 and 20.

Jefferson County sees between 65 and 85 suicides every year, and the county coroner said that most of the people are middle-aged white males. In 2013, three children died by suicide, two boys and one girl. Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties are two of the four most populous counties in the state.

Dale Emme from the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program in Westminster said that there is a lot of stress in society compounded by money problems at home.

"The important thing is to not sweep the issue under the rug," Emme said. "Parents should ask their kids if they’ve heard about the suicides."

Emme stressed that it is important to ask kids if they themselves have thought about suicide, and it's even more important to listen. Kids must feel comfortable talking about any dangerous thoughts they have. Emme said that parents should specifically say to their kids, “You can talk to me about suicide.”

Suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 10 and 14, according to the Boston Children's Hospital. Some suicide attempts are genuine, but many more are simply calls for help. Children with histories of depression, substance abuse and aggressive behavior should be monitored.

Kids and teens may call 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to talk to someone about their thoughts or those of a friend or family member who may be in crisis.