SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people 10-34 years old, according to the CDC.
During the pandemic, the CDC reports teenage emergency visits from suicide attempts increased significantly, with a 50 percent rise in female cases, and a four percent increase in male cases. A 2019 youth risk behavior survey shows almost 19 percent of high school students considered attempting suicide and nearly nine percent actually attempted taking their own lives.
Research has found that 46 percent of those who die by suicide had a known mental illness. Although suicide warning signs are subtle, there are ways to try to prevent it.
Katie Shoener was a vibrant beautiful woman. Ed Shoener of Scranton held back tears as he proudly boasted about his daughter Katie who died by suicide in 2016. Katie first attempted suicide by ingesting a handful of pills at age 17, during her senior year of high school. That’s when the family discovered Katie had been cutting her wrists, and eventually was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a discovery that left the family feeling shocked, and isolated.
“Don’t be ashamed of it. Do what you have to do to address it. So when she attempted suicide we didn’t try to sweep it under the carpet. We got her medical care. We did the best to take care of her and help her take care of herself for the next 11 years,” Shoener said.
According to the CDC, one in five children have a mental illness and one in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental disorder such as bipolar, schizophrenia or major depression. Although Katie had received treatment for her mental health condition, she ultimately took her own life at the age of 29.
“No one knew what to say to us. No one knew how to talk about it. Mental Illness and suicide it’s not a casserole illness,” Shoener said.
When Katie died, the Shoeners relied on their faith to cope with their loss. Now they’ve turned their grief into helping others who suffer from mental illness by offering free support groups at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton.
“We meet once a month for parents that have mental illness to provide support and information and we provide twice a month for people who live with mental illness so they can talk about it,” Shoener said.
And talking about your emotions is key to combatting mental health issues.
“The most important thing is to start these conversations when they’re younger. Hit the elementary aged kids. Start talking about what depression is, what sadness is. Help them learn to identify what they’re feelings are,” Professional Counselor Sarah Shoener said.
Shoener adds, parents need to watch for warning signs.
You’re gonna want to look for irritability, changes in behavior, sleeping habits that change, eating habits that’s changed, frustration, withdrawing, changes in academics,” Sarah Shoener said.
Other suicide risk factors include substance abuse, a history of trauma, prolonged stress, or a recent tragedy or loss. If you have any signs or symptoms of a mental illness see your doctor.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 800-272-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting “hello” to 741741.