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Suicide Outbreak: How to Spot Warning Signs

In part two of our series, "Suicide Outbreak", Barrington Youth and Family Services Executive Director, Rochelle Schulman, explains what is causing kids to take their own lives.

Mental health awareness is a topic on the minds of many in the Barrington area. Last week, a North Barrington woman killed herself by jumping in front of a Metra train.  Five Barrington High School students have taken their own lives since 2007.  The seemingly alarming number of suicides has caused many to wonder why this is happening, and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. 

Rochelle Schulman, Executive Director of Barrington Youth and Family Services, says while the number of teenage suicides in Barrington seems extraordinary, it's not above the national average. 

"If you look statistically, I don't want to minimize it because it's certainly a big number, but it's not as big if you put it on a national scale. It is true that we've had more than other towns at this time.  But I don't know if it's significantly more." 

Schulman says it's difficult to give a concrete answer as to why this is happening in Barrington, but was able to offer some professional insight. 

"Why is this happening in Barrington? I don't know…In Barrington, when there's one suicide, I don't want to mention the copycat effect, but in some ways it may be related.  When one kid does it, they see that's a way out."

Depression is present in a large percentage of people who take their own lives.  Depression is a mental illness that is typically accompanied by several warning signs for parents and friends to look out for.  One of the most important things to watch for is any type of change in behavior.  A loss or increase in appetite, change in friends, or isolation could be signs that something is going on.

Schulman said parents need to pay close attention to what is happening in their child's life as they make their way through adolescence and early adulthood.  Signs of depression can be more difficult to spot in teenagers due to the hormonal changes that typically happen during that phase of life.   

"They seem independent, they're driving cars, they're on their cell phones, you think you can back off.  You really can't. You need to be just as much involved.  You've got to watch them and you've got to listen," Schulman explained. 

If warning signs are noted, Schulman urges parents to talk to their kids, and seek counseling.

"Usually, if a parent is concerned, there very well may be reason to be concerned."

Spotting signs of depression can be easier than spotting signs of suicide. In many cases, the person seems happy and carefree in the days leading up to their death.  

"A lot of suicides, when someone all of a sudden seems euphoric, they're looking great and they're so much better, guess what? That's when it happens," Schulman said.

"It's not always the case, but quite often it is.  The person thinks, I've got my act together now, I have no more problems.  My problems are going to be over tomorrow at ten o'clock in the morning," she said. 

Another critical sign to watch for is when a person starts to give away their belongings. If any of these warning signs are suspected, it's important to take action, and seek help. 

Barrington Youth and Family Services provides counseling and prevention programs for anyone who lives within the Barrington School District boundaries.  No one is turned away, even if they can't pay their bill.

The organization also offers free services to children who need a safe place to talk about their problems.

"If a kid has a problem, and doesn't feel like they can go to their parent, we want them to know that they can come here.  It's totally confidential.  There is no charge for the first five visits," Schulman said.   

Many who are feeling depressed and suicidal are also feeling lonely and scared.  Schulman wants people to know that the doors at Barrington Youth and Family Services are always open.   

"Wait another day, wait another week.  Let's look for a solution.  There's always a solution out there, there's always another solution.  Nothing is worth the end of your life."

To learn more about Barrington Youth and Family Services, call (847) 381-0345, or visit their website at www.barringtonyouthandfamilyservices.org

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