According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth and young adults, and a person dies of suicide every 11 minutes. Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die. A suicide attempt is when someone harms themselves with any goal to end their life but does not die as a result of their actions.

A significant number of people consider suicide. In 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, over 3 million planned to commit suicide, and over 1 million attempted suicide. Of course, these numbers are likely understated because of the shame and secrecy associated with suicide ideation. The CDC states that young lesbian, gay, or bisexual people have higher suicide behavior than their peers who identify as straight.

People are shocked when a person takes their life, especially if that life appears to be admirable. On Jan. 30 Cheslie Kryst, the idolized 30-year-old United States of America Beauty Queen, civil rights attorney, activist, and business scholar, jumped to her death from her apartment in New York. What is even more shocking is that, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), African American women have the lowest rates of suicide, and suicide by falling is rare. CDC vital statistics show that most people who commit suicide do so with a gun; accordingly, suicide rates are highest in states with looser gun laws.

Regardless of the means and the person, suicide leaves people asking why a person that had so much to live for would purposefully take their own life when some people who have a lot less continue to live and enjoy their less glamorous lives. Too often, as in Cheslie Kryst's case, the much-needed answer to that question died with her. Fortunately, researchers have identified risk and protective factors for suicide. People at risk of suicide have:

• Had at least one previous suicide attempt

• Are socially isolated.

• Have been bullied in school or at work..

• Have relationship challenges.

• Suffer from substance abuse.

• Chronic health problems.

• Have mental health issues.

• Depressed.

• Have feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness.

• May appear preoccupied with death.

Suicide rates increase when there has been a recent suicide by a friend, family member, or even a public figure such as a highly publicized American Beauty Queen. Factors that protect against suicide include:

• Have religious beliefs that discourage suicide.

• Connection to friends and family.

• Access to mental health care.

• Limited access to lethal means of suicide.

However, a critical protective factor is possessing good coping and problem-solving skills. Parents must teach children how to deal with ambiguity, disappointment, confusion, stress. These are normal emotions that everyone must experience at some point, some more often than others. Parents have many opportunities to model and teach these skills.

Too often, parents try and immediately assuage or take away these emotions by dismissing the validity of the child's feelings. Some parents will try and divert the child's normal emotions with something else (Let's go get ice cream. Wait until that mean person sees the new car you are getting).

These diversions may make a child happy, but they do not eliminate the feelings associated with the triggering event. Remember, emotions are very individualistic. Only the person who possesses their feelings can say how they "should" feel. Parents can help their children by inviting them to talk about their feelings. Even if parents disagree with their child's feelings, they should validate the emotions.

Parents who suspect that their child is depressed and hopeless should immediately contact a mental health professional. People with suicidal ideation benefit from therapy because the relationship with the therapist often offers an authentic social connection that is conducive to expressing inner emotions.

• Lisa Hill, Ph.D., is an associate professor in criminal justice at California State University, East Bay and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She also worked for county and federal probation departments for three decades and wrote a book based on that experience. She and her husband live in Tracy and have four children. Contact her at

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