(Canton, Ohio) – More than 5% of youth in Stark County attempted suicide at least once during last school year and 22.8% were at an elevated risk of suicide.
The results come from a survey conducted of 15,083 area students in grades 7-12 across multiple districts. The report indicated nearly 1 in 4 Stark County youth was at a higher risk of suicide a year ago.
The 134-page report was released by the Stark County Health Department, the Ohio Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health agencies. The report came after dozens of teens from the areas including Perry, Plain, Jackson, Northwest, and Canton Local died by suicide between August 2017 and March 2018.
Portions of the report were released back in October and in July. According to the Stark County Coroner’s Office, four more teens have died by suicide since the health agencies began their investigation back in April 2018.
- The suicide rate among youth aged 10-19 years old rose last school year more than seven times the U.S. rate and 11 times the Stark County rate for the previous year.
- More than 5% of the surveyed students had attempted suicide at least once during the last school year.
- 8% of them were at an elevated risk of suicide.
- Female students thought about suicide more often and suicide attempts during the past school year were highest among freshman.
- The report explained there is no single cause for death by suicide.
- Students from different school districts are often highly connected, which means a traumatic event at one school could easily affect another school regardless of geographical location.
- Nearly 16% of students were not always able to get medical or psychological care when needed.
- 23% of students had access to a gun, nearly twice the national average.
- Nearly half of the students surveyed had used alcohol or drugs at least once.
- Local students feel less connected to their school and home than the national average.
- Roughly 60% of students have experienced an adverse childhood experience, a higher rate than peers in Ohio and the U.S.
- Roughly 60% of students would tell a friend if he or she experienced suicidal thoughts, and half of them would tell a parent.
- 16% of students lost a friend or family member to suicide in 2017-2018.
The authors of the report examined the prevalence of suicidal behaviors among youth rather than specific facto that may contribute to individual deaths. Key risks outlined include media coverage of suicide, and suicide prevention initiatives taking place in Stark County.
They outlined there are often several stressors leading to death by suicide such as adverse childhood experiences, opioid misuse, death of a loved one by suicide in the past year, posting on social media about the suicide cluster deaths, and having a strong emotional reaction to the Stark County youth suicide cluster.
- Increasing access to health and psychological care for youth, particularly mental health services.
- Reducing access to lethal means among youth at risk for suicide.
- Develop strategies to reduce youth substance abuse.
- Promote connectedness.
- Teach coping and problem-solving skills.
- Train community members to identify people who may be at risk of suicide.
- Refer people substantially affected by suicide, for further counseling or other services.
According to the report, 54 prevention initiatives have been identified in Stark County.