County to Host Teen Suicide Prevention Focus Groups

by Karen Goff November 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm 47 Comments

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

  • LaurieTD

    The suicide rate in Fairfax is not higher than average in the U.S.. This is not just our problem.

    • Wesley W

      You are absolutely correct, teenage suicide is a serious problem in high schools in the United States. And the worst part is sucicide is on the rise. As citizens, we cannot simply focus on tackling every single suicide, but this culture of death in its entirety. This Teen Suicide Prevention Group is a good start. But the focus of this group should not only be about suicide prevention, but about taking care of depression as a whole.

  • Jack Lind


    • Jake Barr

      I agree with you. These groups will help people who feel alone

  • mwuller

    I believe kids thinking of suicide should talk to an adult or a friend. Most people thinking of suicide feel as if they are alone. Obviously they are not alone if thousands are committing suicide every year.

  • Jack M

    Yes I agree

    • Wesley W

      I agree as well. Suicide has become an extremely serious problem and needs to be dealt with. This prevention group is definitely a good start.

  • Caroline Smith

    I think the idea of having focus groups is a great idea and they should do these focus groups in other cities too.

    • Michaela Stompoly

      I agree Caro, the idea of having focus groups spread throughout the cities of the United States will help to prevent suicide. 🙂

  • Michaela Stompoly

    I think that suicide is something that people should take seriously. It happens too many times in our society today and is effecting too many people. If we, as people of society, work together to bring awareness to young kids and help them realize that suicide is not the only way, we can reduce the amount of suicide drastically.

  • Kristina Colling

    I think this is a good way to prevent suicides because it gives the people who are considering suicide a chance to see that people are there to help them and it will not just affect the person who committed it, but the family and friends of that person.

  • Gabby

    Suicide is a big issue today. It takes many young adults and children’s lives every year. The suicide prevention focus groups could help many kids struggling with the thought of taking their lives. This foundation should start at schools with high suicide rates and see if it helps. If the results are positive and many kids agree that this helps them, they should start moving around the country to differnt schools.

    • Madison Wuller

      I completely agree. I think it’d be great to eventually have them in all schools as well.

    • lexi

      I strongly agree with this. I think Gabby really got the point across.

  • kevin M

    I think the idea of having groups to support and be there for kids is a great idea. I believe this will help prevent suicide.

    • Ashleigh Whitney

      I completely agree with you and would fully support the groups.

  • Jack M

    I thinks its good because it will prevent suicides

    • Jack D

      I agree Jack. These groups will help recognize problems that lead to suicide, and hopefully reduce the rate of teen suicide

  • Jake Barr

    I think that these programs can help many people struggling with their lives and give them insight on how to get help

  • Mary K McCanna

    I feel like these focus groups will be good but to an extent. They will allow parents and guardians to see and address some warning signs of suicide. The focus groups should also focus on awareness and teaching of students about suicide.

    • Erica Wunderlich

      I totally agree with you Mary L. This was a splendid comment. The groups should focus on preventing suicide and teaching people so they can use the information to help others.

    • Abbey

      I agree with your statement Mary K. If the guardians and/or friends see the warning signs, they could help prevent suicide and save a life. Focusing on awareness will educate those who may be unaware of how serious this issue is today.

  • Erica Wunderlich

    I think this is a good thing because suicide is a big issue in our society. They should do these in other cities too so they can try to prevent suicide. Its good for people to have someone to talk to so they don’t feel so alone.

    • Caroline Smith

      I agree with what you said Erica. This is a very good idea that could be beneficial to our society.

    • Mary K

      I agree the first step to fixing a problem is getting help. Everyone should be able to talk to anyone about anything. This focus group will teach people how to be supportive of people who are unstable

  • Emily Boone

    I think that this is a very good idea and that suicide is not thought of seriously enough. No one should ever feel that there is no way out and I think that this is a good way to help reach out people who feel that there is no other way.

    • Kristina Colling

      Many people who are thinking about committing suicide do think that there is no way out, so I agree with what you said about that this is a good way to tell those that it is not the only way out.

  • Cammy Duff

    I feel that suicide is a problem that needs more recognition. This program is a great step to prevent teen suicide

    • Jacob Schmidt

      I completely agree. One of the best i’ve seen all day.

  • Ashleigh Whitney

    I believe that that family history of suicide has nothing to do with a teens or anyone else’s decision to take their life, just because someone in the family has committed suicide doesn’t make one more likely to do the same.

    • kate

      i agree with you but suicide in a family could give someone else the idea.

  • Morgan McEnroe

    This is a very god cause. Teenagers dealing with depression and or suicidal thoughts often feel alone. I imagine one of the goals of these focus groups is to help these kids recognize they are not alone. They can get their feelings out with others who are going through similar things and find help in a safe and welcoming way.

  • Jacob Schmidt

    I think the idea of prevention focus groups is very good. It informs teenagers that there are many other options that can solve problems other than suicide.

    • Gabby

      I agree with Jacob! This idea will help people be informed and to move away from the option of suicide.

  • Margaret Martin

    I think that it is unusual that there have been so many teen suicides in that particular area. I think they realize how important and necessary the program is. Although smaller support and advice groups are helpful, I feel that sometimes it is better to not cross the line in highlighting suicide as an option.

    • Ellie Heit

      I don’t think that it is so rare in that area. After all, it is the third leading cause of death in the US. The attempts are even more common and there have been about the same amount in our area as well.

  • Lexi

    I think that this subject should be taken very seriously. Many people take their lives and there might be something that someone could have done. We need to have more awareness about suicide. Many people do this thinking no one cares, there is always someone out there that cares and will be there for you.

  • George J

    I think this is a good cause that should be expanded upon. Suicide is a big issue in our modern day society and any attempt to help prevent it is a good thing. The focus groups will give people who do not think that they are loved or welcomed a place where they can talk about what they are going through in a safe environment. This safe environment and the support of other people who actually care will help prevent suicides and improve lives. George J.

  • Ellie Heit

    There are several factors in play here. The first is that suicide is an issue all across the world. I think that this is a great start to addressing the problem, but more action needs to be done across America. Another is that it is a serious health problem like the CDC says, so it should be addressed like one. The high percentage of people contemplating it needs to be addressed by more people. If it can be triggered by any of the listed factors, more children are at risk, so there should be more programs that prevent it. It is a great idea and should be strongly encouraged throughout schools.

    • Margaret Martin

      I agree with you Ellie. This has been addressed in a certain affected community, but it could be helpful across the board. With the high numbers present, it is obvious that there is a problem everywhere.

  • Abbey

    I believe that these organizations will be useful and help prevent suicides. Those that may be considering suicide could change their minds after knowing that people actually care about them. The organizations would help the possible victim as well as their family and friends.

    • Jack Lind

      I agree with this statement. I like how you said they would help the victim, but also their families. These focus groups could help the family prevent any future problem with depression and suicide.

    • Emily Boone

      I agree with Abbey. This is an amazing way to give people a chance to feel like they’re not alone.

  • kate

    People should talk about these groups more often so others will know they are out there and will have the option to attend if they need them.

  • Will A.

    It is important that all communities are aware of suicide and can recognize when someone may be contemplating it. Suicide is often neglected by people because they “don’t know anyone who is considering it”. In reality most people are close to someone whom is hurting, and even though not everyone in pain considers suicide, we still need to reach out to people as friends.

  • Lauren Griffiths

    So many people take their lives and it is becoming a more vast problem each year. I think this would benefit so many people who are suicidal and give them a different view on life and show them that they are important and that they matter. This is something that really needs to be addressed and I think this foundation would aid into saving more lives.

  • Charlie Dalton

    Each of us has the natural right to defend our person, our family, and our property.


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