With still two months of coroners inquests to complete, Winnebago County already set a depressing record in 2016 – teen suicides.
Through October, six of the 40 confirmed suicides in Winnebago County were boys and girls under the age of 20. The previous unfortunate record was four in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
This isn’t a trend only in Winnebago County. Teen suicides have been on the rise all over the United States in the social media era. Those disputes and pressures kids normally experience at school now follows them home on their electronic devices.
In November, Time Magazine put the issue on its cover, highlighting some startling statistics.
“In 2015, about 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 2 million report experiencing depression that impairs their daily function. About 30% of girls and 20% of boys–totaling 6.3 million teens–have had an anxiety disorder, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.”
With phones and tablets becoming more commonplace at even younger ages, the blurring of real and electronic worlds isn’t going to suddenly revert back to the 1970s. Instead, it will take awareness that there are two worlds your teen is living in – the one you see in front of you and the one online for the world to see.
Several groups have formed to help raise awareness. Locally, Kevin Polky, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of KP Counseling, launched a nonprofit called Shatter Our Silence to help train adults and school personnel on how to better notice the signs of someone having suicidal thoughts.
You can learn more about Shatter Our Silence and how to help at https://www.facebook.com/sosrockford/www.facebook.com/sosrockford/.