KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City-area educators are opening up the topic of teen suicide for discussion after seeing deaths rise to record numbers in Missouri and elsewhere.
Parents and lawmakers are pushing school districts to confront the many issues related to youth suicide. Such issues include mental health, bullying, drug dependency, impulsiveness and academic pressure, the Kansas City Star reported.
"When I went to school, students would disappear and you wouldn't know what happened," said Steve Arkin, the father of someone who died by suicide and now a leader in the movement to encourage schools to be involved in addressing the problem. "With social media (today), everyone knows. It's forcing teachers to be more aware."
A new Missouri law requires all schools to have strategies written by July 2018 to prevent suicide. The strategies must address the issue of cyberbullying, an escalating factor in teen suicides.
State figures show 73 teenagers in Missouri ranging 10-19 years killed themselves last year. The next highest total among that age group occurred in 1987, with 66 reported suicides.
The spike in Missouri aligns with a pattern across several states. Experts have said the increase reflects a youth culture that pushes teens to be perfect. Teens are also vulnerable to social media and quick to act on impulses.
"A lot of adults don't know what youth go through. They didn't grow up in that social media world," said Kirsti Millard, suicide prevention liaison for ReDiscover, a nonprofit community mental health center.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death of people ages 10-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For Kansas City-area youth in that age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death.