Kids are killing themselves, but NJ doesn’t always call it ‘suicide’
On average, about 40 children a year between the ages of 10 and 18 take their own lives. But the actual total may be significantly higher.
Christine Beyer, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, said the department has tracked youth suicides for quite a while but “just over the last couple of years, we actually began a suicide subcommittee where that board will now review the suicides of children."
The subcommittee was formed after it became apparent that “there are medical examiners within the state that are not actually indicating suicide as the cause of death, depending on the age of the child."
Beyer said some medical examiners are doing this because they are under the belief the child is just not able to understand the finality of taking their own life. But she disagrees with that assessment.
“If it is taking their own life, we need to know that. We want to know that because it actually then diminishes or reduces the statistics and it would be false reporting.”
She noted suicide in New Jersey is the 14th leading cause of death, but it’s the third leading cause of death for children and young adults.
According to childtrends.org the percentage of high school students who reported thinking seriously about attempting suicide in the past year is on the rise.
After falling during the 1990s and 2000s, the number climbed to 18 percent of high school students in 2015, the most recent year statistics are available.
So why are kids thinking about killing themselves?
“They’re in such pain at the time and they feel that they have no other alternative, no other way out of that. Ending their life seems like their best and only option," Beyer said.
She noted kids are all connected electronically via social media these days, but that’s very misleading.
“It’s actually creating more isolation and there’s also more bullying and kids will say a lot of things over the internet or a text message than they would actually say to somebody’s face. I think there’s a lot of additional pressures on youth these days," she said.
“They don’t feel that they have anyone else that they can speak to, they don’t feel like they can ask for help, and all of that plays into why they may continue down a path [...] that they could wind up wanting to take their own life.”
She said suicide prevention among our children is a community effort.
“What family members and professionals can do is ask their loved ones about how they’re feeling and helping them and encouraging them to seek treatment," she said.