Column: Let’s talk about youth suicide in Ohio


These stories can be found on the Nationwide Children’s Behavioral Health (Ohio) website in the On Our Sleeves program section that helps children living with mental illness … www.nationwidechildrens.org.

“Just three short years ago, our then 14-year-old daughter was hospitalized with symptoms of severe depression and anxiety, following what we later learned were a series of suicide attempts. Her illness was compounded by negative influences from the internet, sought out in an effort to dispel the darkness, which had led to confusion, paranoia, violent outbursts, and even psychosis. It is no exaggeration to say that Nationwide Children’s Hospital, its doctors and amazing staff saved her life, through months of intensive inpatient treatment, and referral for intensive outpatient care. While Helen still lives with some symptoms of her illness, she has gained incredible insight and empathy, which she is now giving back through work in eldercare. I thank God every day for this bright, loving child who we had so nearly lost, both physically and emotionally, and for the amazing people at Nationwide Children’s who helped her find her way back from a very dark place.”

“On Aug. 8, 2012, in the early morning, Drey texted his mother: Hey, I love you. Denise thought it was odd, but not too concerning he would text her that message in the middle of the night. She texted him back, telling him she loved him, and got ready for work. Two months earlier, Drey had graduated from Thomas Worthington High School, where he had been an avid soccer player and earned a varsity letter. He had a job at a car lot and was preparing to start college, a transition he was insecure about. In the weeks before he was to start college, Drey had been angry and depressed, but Denise thought perhaps that was just typical angst for a 19-year-old. Drey’s father called Denise in the morning on Aug. 8, urging her to come to the house. Immediately. He wouldn’t say what happened. Nor would the many teenagers gathered in front of the house when she arrived and looked at each of their faces, hoping to see her son’s: Where’s Drey? Where’s Drey? And where was the ambulance? Denise asked the police officer. Why hadn’t they dispatched an ambulance? “Ma’am,’’ the officer said, “he’s already passed.’’ About two and a half years before he died, Drey seemed depressed and told his mother he wanted to kill himself. But after four months of counseling, his mood improved so much that therapy seemed no longer necessary. Then, during his senior year of high school, he started drinking. His mother had told him not to and had hoped that perhaps it was a fleeting phase. Drey drank the morning he took his life – after his dad left for work.”

A 2016 report from the Ohio Department of Health Violence and Injury Prevention Program and the Ohio Violent Death Reporting System provided factors for youth deaths by suicide (www.oacp.org). From 2012 to 2014, an average of 187 Ohio youths died by suicide each year. In 86 percent of youth suicide cases, investigators were able to determine the circumstances surrounding these deaths.

In reference to mental/behavioral health, 44 percent had a known mental health diagnosis, 27 percent were currently in treatment for mental illness, and 25 percent had a depressed mood. In reference to substance abuse, 5 percent were alcohol dependent and 19 percent had another substance use problem. In reference to their current problems, 38 percent had an intimate partner problem, 21 percent had experienced a crisis in the past two weeks, and less common problems included school, financial, and criminal.

Methods of suicide. Overall, 48 percent of youth suicides were by hanging or strangulation and 40 percent used firearms. Among males, 46 percent died by firearms and 44 percent by hanging or strangulation, whereas only 27 percent of females died by firearms and 57 percent by hanging or strangulation. Youth suicides by firearm are more common in Appalachian counties compared to other types of Ohio counties.

According to a 2019 report in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and the Central Ohio Poison Center found medication overdose suicide attempts have more than doubled since 2000, and more than tripled for girls.

Ohio Resources

Ohio Violent Death Reporting System at www.healthy.ohio.gov.

Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation at www.ohiospf.org.

Ohio’s Suicide Prevention Plan at www.mha.ohio.gov/suicideprevention.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s mission is to provide immediate assistance to individuals in suicidal crisis by connecting them to the nearest available suicide prevention and mental health service provider through a toll-free telephone number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is the only national suicide prevention and intervention telephone resource funded by the Federal Government.

Suicide prevention and intervention for youth must be an ongoing mission in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, each community, each health department, each hospital emergency department, each school district, each youth organization, each pediatrician’s office, each place of worship, and each home.

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Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Ohio. Contact her at melissamcolumnist@gmail.com.Reach

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Ohio. Contact her at melissamcolumnist@gmail.com.Reach