Experts say talk to teens about suicide often, not just in wake of tragedy

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — A community is reeling after two Arapahoe High School students died by suicide within days of each other. 

Denver7 heard from many viewers worried they wouldn’t recognize the signs if a loved one were in trouble and from viewers alarmed at what seemed to them to be a growing trend among teens.

Denver7 spoke to an expert at the Colorado Crisis Services about warning signs, how schools should approach prevention and grief as well as advice for parents.

In a matter of a few days, two of the same type of letters were sent home to parents at Arapahoe High School, a community struggling with loss, grief and heartbreak.

Jess Stohlman-Rainey with Colorado Crisis Centers said the next steps after a tragedy like this should be allowing time to mourn and not jumping into suicide prevention.

“A lot of the things that people might talk about in suicide prevention programming can feel really blaming and harmful,” said Stohlman-Rainey.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among 10-to-24-year-olds, according to the Colorado Health Institute. But Stohlman-Rainey said the statistics could be skewed.

"So the majority of suicide deaths in Colorado are actually men in middle ages. But I think we hear and we often are most impacted by suicides of young people.”

Talking about it is so important, said Stohlman-Rainey, while not buying into what she calls a myth that discussing suicide will lead to more.

“There is some concern when there is a suicide loss in a school and another one shortly after, that could really impact people and not doing something about that, not addressing that as a community that's what can lead people to have more serious distress,” said Stohlman-Rainey.

Arapahoe High School canceled classes for a day and gave students time to be with each other and talk to counselors. Overall, schools and families can make sure they are asking their teens what they need, an open dialogue all the time.

“So really creating some space to talk with young people about what their needs are, and what they feel is going and what would be most helpful,” said Stohlman-Rainey.

Even including it in courses, can help people recognize the signs that someone needs help like isolation, change in behavior, substance abuse and feelings of being a burden, to name a few.

“A lot of times suicidal people feel like they’re shouting from the rooftops and asking for help and the rest of us don’t know that that is happening because that communication is kind of coded and it’s in a language that we don’t always understand,” said Stohlman-Rainey.

If you are in crisis or need help dealing with one, call this Colorado Crisis Services toll-free number 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 to speak to a trained professional.

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