Tennessee suffers sharp spike in child suicides

Jan 22, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT/TNS)  --  A new report from the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network shows that suicides among children between 10 and 17 spiked more than 54 percent in three years.

On average, a child commits suicide somewhere in Tennessee each week and suicide is now the second leading cause of deaths among children.

While there's no single reason people take their own lives, Network Executive Director Scott Ridgway says children's exposure to what he calls "mature concepts" should be a concern.

"We're seeing younger kids think about suicide and part of that is, is that they are exposed to social media, they are watching stuff on TV."

As alarming as the Suicide Prevention Network’s latest numbers are, the actual number of suicide deaths is likely higher.

A 2018 audit by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office shows that about one in five county medical examiners are failing to report deaths in a timely fashion.

On the plus side, Tennessee this year joined the National Violent Death Reporting Network administered by the Centers for Disease Control. Deputy State Chief Medical Examiner Adele Lewis says CDC grants are helping Tennessee get a clearer picture of its suicide problem.

“So we are going to collect data and information on violent deaths that are occurring across the state, and have a review team get deep down into that data and explore what kinds of things are happening in violent deaths.”

Suicide warning signs include withdrawing from friends and family, changes in behavior, giving personal items away, showing despair or rage, and talking about death.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story reported in partnership with the Tennessee News Service.