*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on USA Today.
America is experiencing a striking rise in suicide among middle school students.
The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014, for the first time surpassing the death rate in that age group from car crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014 alone, 425 middle schoolers nationwide took their own lives.
"It’s alarming. We’re even getting cases involving 8- and 9-year olds,” said Clark Flatt, who started the Jason Foundation in Tennessee 20 years ago to help educate teachers about teen suicide after his 16-year-old son took his own life. “It’s scary. This isn’t an emerging problem – it’s here.”
Researchers, educators and psychologists say several factors — increased pressure on students to achieve academically, more economic uncertainty, increased fear of terrorism and social media — are behind the rise in suicides among the young.
The use of social media is a particular worry because it has amped up bullying among a vulnerable age group. Young students in prior generations left school each afternoon and avoided someone who bullied them until the next day or week. Now, social media allows for bullying 24/7 — and the bully doesn't even have to be someone the child knows.
“With social media you can’t turn people off,” said Phyllis Alongi, clinical director at the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, a group founded by parents in Monmouth County whose children died by suicide.
There is so much pressure on young people they can become overwhelmed because they haven’t yet developed the coping skills adults rely on. Something an adult easily dismisses because of a lifetime of experience can be hard for a middle schooler to shrug off.
The statistics are heartbreaking. Nationwide, the annual rate climbed from 0.9 to 2.1 suicides per 100,000 middle schoolers between 2007 and 2014, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts say that to reduce suicide among teens, parents and teachers need education about warning signs. These can include changes in feelings, displays of distress, a sense of hopelessness, a change in appetite, sleep loss, lost interest in hobbies or giving away favored possessions, Alongi said.
Parents need to speak to their child if they think something is wrong.