Today is Jan. 14.
The year is only 2 weeks old.
Yet, sadly, we've already reported on the death of two area teens who died by suicide.
We hurt for their families, their friends ... for all who new them. But most of all, we hurt for the young lives, ended far too soon.
We can't begin to imagine the emotion or mental state behind such a decision.
And we also believe that, given the recent tragedies, this often under-reported element of daily life in any community -- suicide -- will be talked about more. By children and adults, alike.
Charlie Biss, director of the Child, Adolescent and Family Unit of the Vermont Department of Mental Health, told the Reformer on Monday that "Suicide is huge public health problem, and there is no one answer on how to prevent it."
According to Biss, in Vermont there are between six and nine suicides every year committed by youth under the age of 18.
That number seems incomprehensible. That many?
Equally as troubling, Biss added: Data shows that about 20 percent of the teenagers surveyed in this state say they have thought about it, or have experienced long periods of profound sadness.
"It's important for everyone to get information on this," Biss said. "This is not a youth problem. It is really a life span concern."
To that end, we'd like to re-publish an editorial we wrote last year, on this topic:
Spending most of our days inside a newsroom, there are numerous bits of information that comes across our desks on a daily basis that doesn't "make" the daily news.
One of those items: suicide.
As a longstanding policy, unless there's an unusually public aspect to a suicide, we choose not to publish them. Part of that is due to the sensitivity of the family and friends; part is due to respecting the complex nature of what makes a person feel like they have no other option (than to take their own life); and part is to prevent others from possibly following suit.
However, while we don't typically report on suicides, we do make a point to do stories on suicide prevention, and the various local groups that work very hard to help those in need.
Without getting into specifics, the editorial board has noticed there's been several suicides in the area this summer, and wanted to take a moment to recognize the seriousness of the issue, and spotlight the help available to those who feel like they have nowhere left to turn.
"Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "While its causes are complex and determined by multiple factors, the goal of suicide prevention is simple: Reduce factors that increase risk (i.e. risk factors) and increase factors that promote resilience (i.e. protective factors). Ideally, prevention addresses all levels of influence: individual, relationship, community, and societal. Effective prevention strategies are needed to promote awareness of suicide and encourage a commitment to social change."
The Vermont Department of Health calls suicide "a serious public health problem that devastates individuals, families and communities," while pointing out it is one of the leading causes of death among Americans.
"Completed suicides are only part of the problem," the Vermont Department of Health reports. "More people are hospitalized or treated and released as a result of suicide attempts than are fatally injured. ... While suicide is often viewed as a response to a single stressful event, it is a far more complicated issue."
There are many warning signs to consider if you are concerned someone you love may be at risk. They include: always talking or thinking about death; clinical depression; having a "death wish"; losing interest in things one used to care about; making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless; or even talking about suicide.
There are resources available, just by picking up the phone. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-TALK. Here in Vermont, people can get information and referrals by calling 2-1-1. There's also a National Suicide Hotline at 800-SUICIDE. Or, for teens: 800-852-8336.
Here in Windham County Health Care and Rehabilitation Services provides 24 hour emergency support to anyone with thoughts of suicide, as well to family members and friends who are communicating with someone with such thoughts.
Anyone in immediate crisis should call 911, and HCRS can be reached at 800-622-4235.
Please, before doing anything rash, reach out to one of these services. There are people waiting to help you.