Published : Thursday, May 16, 2019 | 6:30 PM
The number of suicide attempts among young people in the Pasadena area continues to grow, but intervention through open community discussion could help reverse rising numbers, professionals say.
Pasadena’s D’Veal Family and Youth Services will hold a “Choose 2 Live” suicide prevention and awareness event on Sunday, at the Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena.
Discussion and engagement about the topic is a constructive means to prevent suicide, as it’s important to increase resiliency in the community and build healing connections, said Adrianna Bugarin, Associate Clinical Director at D’Veal.
The statistics on suicide are staggering. About 23 or 24 youths a month wind up in the emergency room at Huntington Hospital as a result of a suicide attempt, according to psychiatrist Paul Kurkjian, M.D., who recently spoke to PasadenaNow.com. What is even more surprising is at least 40-60 percent of those attempts are among the area’s 9 to12 year olds.
Read ‘Pasadena Teen Suicide Attempts Rise’ here.
There is a range of reasons for the increase in attempts, but technology plays a significant role. In many cases, he said those attempts come as a result of social media bullying and baiting, and even parents taking away a youngster’s cell phone.
“The number one reason why a child would overdose and the most common thing I hear is ‘because my mom took my cell phone away,’ which blows people’s minds who are from a certain generation,” he said.
Suicide is the No. 3 killer of children and teens, Kurkjian said. Car accidents and homicide are the two leading causes of death in children and teens.
While some families have a history of mental illness, another reason for the high number of suicide attempts in the area is that there are more foster homes and organizations in Pasadena.
Lara Choulakian, a licensed clinical social worker with Pasadena Unified for the child welfare attendance and safety office, said that the school district also aims to have ongoing conversations. She said she wants people to recognize the signs of possible suicidal behavior.
“It used to be middle and high schoolers, but now we’re really seeing the elementary school level students presenting with the signs and symptoms of suicide or just suicidal thoughts,” she said. “So what we’re trying to do is make our entire school community aware of the signs and symptoms of suicide, help prevent, and link students to services.”
Choulakian said it’s important to identify possible signs of intent to commit suicide, but it is also important to smoothly reintroduce the student who has attempted to take their own life back into school and social settings.
Collaboration has been a mutual initiative among agencies. For instance, PUSD works with a consortium of seven LA County-contracted Department of Mental Health agencies.
On its website, D’Veal describes its mission as to “deliver effective programs and positive outcomes on every encounter.” The services of the firm focus on the needs of clients and considering individual emotional challenges and risk factors, and behaviors and empowerment.
Free child care and children’s activities will be held at the event on Sunday at the Boys and Girls Club so parents can join the discussion and to recognize ways they are able to help their children, said Lisa Cavelier, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena. She will be one of several speakers at the event, but there will be hands-on activities like discussing new coping skills and other engagement exercises and discussion, she said.
“It’s really important to remove the stigma around suicide to get people talking about suicide,” Bugarin said. “Suicide is very much preventable, and one of the reasons that sometimes the rate goes up is because people are afraid to talk about how they’re feeling.”
Choose 2 Live will be held at the Boys and Girls Club campus at 2020 N. Fair Oaks Avenue, from 12 noon to 3 p.m.
For more information, visit www.dveal.org.