Addressing Arizona’s Climbing Teen Suicide Rates

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Suicide rates are on the rise in Arizona and may continue to go up due to a lack of funding and stigmas about mental health.


According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, the state of Arizona ranks in the top 25 percent of states with the highest suicide rate. In Arizona, suicide is the first leading cause of death in children ages 10 to 14, and it is the second leading cause of death of people ages 15 to 34. In 2015, 1,276 people died by suicide in Arizona.


Dawn Hunter, Arizona area director of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, said that most suicides are a result of someone’s stress being more than they can handle.


“Suicide occurs when the stressor exceeds the coping ability in someone with a mental health condition,” she said. “Depression is the most common condition, and it often is undiagnosed or untreated.”


Hunter said that although there is a common misconception, suicide can affect anyone.


“Suicide doesn’t know a specific demographic,” Hunter said.


She said that suicide impacts people of all races, cultures, and ages. No one is exempt from being at risk.


While the state of Arizona is equipped with many suicide prevention programs, the programs have room for improvement.


Denis Thirion, the crisis call center manager at EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center, said suicide prevention programs would be more effective if they had more time to spend with clients and build up trust.


“We could improve by taking the time to listen to somebody and build that rapport without rushing or skipping ahead to giving a referral or giving advice.”


He stated that programs struggle to provide the necessary amount of time and trust due to a lack of funding. Thirion said that a lack of funds affects almost all suicide prevention programs because the programs do not generate any kind of money.


“It’s a free service,” he said. “It has to be funded through grants, the federal (government) or donors. No one would charge for that kind of service…It has to be a priority at the state level and the federal level for the service to come.”


In addition to programs needing more money, Aaron Krasnow, associate vice president of ASU Counseling, said that suicide could be better prevented if more people sought out the care they needed. But sometimes people do not get help because the stigmas attached to suicide and mental health.


“Many people do reach out and get help,” Krasnow said. “One of the reasons people do not reach out for help is because there remains a social stigma associated with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts or behaviors. That stigma has persisted for a long time in our society and a number of other cultures as well.


“When people think about things that have to do with their minds, there’s a lot of worry about how people might judge them.”


Without more money and without the normalization of mental health issues, Arizona may continue to see suicide rates climb.


The AFSP said, “suicide prevention starts with everyday heroes like you.”

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