County to Host Teen Suicide Prevention Focus Groups

fcps logoThe Fairfax County Department of Health is teaming with Fairfax County Public Schools and the Centers for Disease Control this week to combat teen suicide.

The organizations will be holding focus groups to examine risk factors associated with suicide among youth in Fairfax County, according to a memo from South Lakes High School Kim Retzer to the school community.

“The CDC will be facilitating parent focus groups to assist in the identification of risk factors, understand current suicide prevention strategies, and discuss next steps in the community,” the memo said.

Please contact [email protected] if you wish to participate.

The focus groups will take place: 

  • Nov 17, 7:00 p.m., Virginia Hills Center, 6520 Diane Lane, Alexandria
  • Nov 18, 7:00 p.m., Leis Center, 7423 Camp Alger Ave., Falls Church
  • Nov 19, 7:00 p.m., Mountain View Alternative High School, 5775 Spindle Court, Centreville

The South Lakes community was shocked and saddened after the apparent suicide of senior Emma Clark earlier this school year.

Two students at nearby Langley High School committed suicide last school year and six W.T. Woodson High School students have ended their lives in the past several years.

Lauren Anderson, co-founder and executive director of the Josh Anderson Foundation, says the dialogue between FCPS, county mental health officials and the CDC is a good thing. Lauren Anderson and her parents founded the nonprofit in 2010, after the suicide of 17-year-old Josh Anderson, who was attending South Lakes High School at the time.

“This shows all these parties are taking [suicide] seriously,” she said. “It shows the importance of suicide — talking about it and getting feedback. … With my brother, it shows suicide can happen to anyone. He wasn’t someone you would necessarily think was depressed.”

The CDC says suicide is a serious public health problem. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death, resulting in about 4,600 deaths annually.

The CDC also says deaths from youth suicide are only part of the problem as many more young people survive suicide attempts than actually die.

A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9-12 in public and private schools in the United States found that 16 percent of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13 percent reported creating a plan, and 8 percent reporting trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S., says the CDC.

Some of the top risk factors of suicide, according to the CDC:

  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stressful life event or loss
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
  • Incarceration

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