WSW: Difficult, But Necessary Conversations About Youth Suicide

Oct 2, 2017

In this Thursday, May 23, 2013, file photo, Sheila Pott poses with a portrait of her daughter Audrie in Los Altos, Calif. Audrie Pott committed suicide in September 2012 after being sexually assaulted by three boys during a house party in Saratoga, Calif.
Credit Marcio Jose Sanchez / The Associated Press

The Mobile Crisis Response Manager for Family and Children Services of Kalamazoo says parents don’t hesitate to talk about drugs, alcohol or stranger danger with their children. Susan Davis says suicide is another of those subjects that has to be discussed. 


Figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an increase in suicide among teenagers and adolescents between 2007 and 2015. Davis says research has examined the factors that contribute to youth thinking about and committing suicide. She says those include early childhood trauma such as abuse and neglect. Davis says mental health conditions and substance abuse can be indicators of risk. She says youth brains aren’t fully developed for decision making.

The signs of risk can develop early in life. Davis says her agency has had calls for kids 6 years old. She says the signs can include withdrawing from activities, sadness and talking vaguely such as “things would be better if I wasn’t here.” Davis says “age appropriate” conversations about suicide are important. She says it’s normal for moods to go up and down. But Davis says parents should watch for long term and more severe moodiness. She says parents should also watch how much time their children spend on line, and what they’re reading.

Davis says a variety of services are available in Kalamazoo County for parents who think their child is at risk. That can include a face to face assessment. She says Family and Children Services works with schools, pediatricians and others to serve. Davis the 211 line at Gryphon Place is a good place to find resources.