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Are we seeing a startling increase in NJ teen suicides this year?

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Some suicide prevention experts say suicide may be on the rise among teenagers in New Jersey.

“I know of at least half a dozen young people within Central New Jersey who have ended their lives by suicide within the last two weeks,” said Trisha Baker, director and co-founder of Attitudes in Reverse, a Central Jersey organization focused on providing mental health awareness and suicide prevention program to youth and young adults.

Baker said this is happening because kids in crisis are being pushed over the edge by world events.

She noted in addition to the tragic terrifying shooting spree we had in Las Vegas recently, there have also been several other disasters in the news.

“Every morning you wake up there’s floods, there’s hurricanes, there’s fires, lives are being devastated, they’re losing their homes,” she said.

Baker pointed out when we see this kind of tragedy unfolding wherever we look, “we start to lose hope that there’s going to be a good tomorrow, and when we have no hope then we don’t have anything.”

She said these are young people “who have been struggling in silence.

“Very often those who have mental health disorders, they’re highly intelligent and they know how to cover up what they’re struggling with,” she said.

“We still deal with stigma, people are afraid to come forward, they’re afraid to ask for help, they feel that it’s something that they’re going to deal with on their own.”

She noted mental health issues are still frequently considered a weakness in character, which is something that must be corrected.

“You would not perceive cancer as a weakness in character, you’d support the person who is struggling. You would not force somebody who’s living with cancer to hide it and pretend like it doesn’t exist,” she said.

Baker added there are still some schools in New Jersey that are very resistant to having mental health and suicide prevention conversations with their students.

“By talking about mental health disorders, by getting kids to understand the signs of suicide, it gives them permission to come forward and to ask for help,” she said. “And then they don’t have to feel so hopeless when they get triggered by some of these traumatic events that are happening in the world.”

She said many teens who have suicidal thoughts are caring people who are concerned about others.

“Sometimes they’re so empathetic that they don’t know how to shield themselves from all these things that are happening.”

She urged school officials and parents to become educated about this issue, and give youngsters the opportunity to talk freely about mental health issues so they can recognize signs and symptoms and ask for help if they need it.

“Mental health disorders are actually highly treatable. But again, it’s like cancer: the earlier you begin treatment, the more likely the success of treatment.”

In desperate times, ways for NJ residents to get help

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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