South Central Kentucky Takes Topic of Teen Suicide Out of the Shadows

Oct 4, 2017

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A recent state report shows 15 percent of high school sophomores in Kentucky have thought about taking their own lives. Some teenagers in Kentucky have done more than think about suicide.

The latest report from Kentucky Incentives for Prevention, or KIP, shows 12 percent of high school sophomores have made a plan to take their own lives. And eight percent have attempted suicide.

Joy Graham is director of the LifeSkills Regional Prevention Center in Bowling Green and a suicide prevention specialist who conducts training for area educators. Graham says said the community needs to talk about suicide because it does happen here.

“In the past five years, I’m aware of five students who have committed suicide in our region. We cover a 10-county region in south central Kentucky. They ranged in age from 14-to-18, middle and high school students.”

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the suicide rate among 10-to-14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014.

In south central Kentucky mental health professionals, educators and community coordinators with Warren County Public Library and WKU Libraries are collaborating to take the subject of teen suicide out of the shadows. The goal is to encourage  teenagers to feel more comfortable in bringing their concerns to a responsible adult. The community discussions are also intended to help parents, teachers and other adults get guidance on how discuss suicide with teenagers.  

Graham said many people avoid the issue out of fear, but that’s a misconception. 

“People don’t want to talk about suicide. They think if you say the word suicide then somebody’s going to do it. All the research is showing if you talk about it, they’re less likely…it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, they understand what’s happening with me and maybe I can talk to them.’ They trust somebody.”

In 2010 Kentucky passed a law that all teachers and administrators in middle and high school must have at least two hours every year, before Sept. 1, of suicide prevention training, which can be online. In addition, all middle and high school students in grades 6-through-12 grade are required to get some type of suicide awareness information.

Teen suicide has been chosen as a topic for the Southern Kentucky Book Festival’s annual community-wide reading project. The discussion is based on the book 13 Reasons Why, a young adult novel about a high school student who leaves tape recordings telling why she took her own life. The book was made into a Netflix series, which has generated controversy, some say because some scenes are too graphic or not in line with how the issue of teen suicide is presented in the book.

As part of the community project, a panel of mental health professionals will discuss 13 Reasons Why on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. in the WKU Fine Arts Center, Russell H. Miller Theatre. The event is free and open to the public.

The author of 13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher, will be a featured speaker at the Young Adult Southern Book Convention in Bowling Green on Oct. 20 and 21.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-TALK (8255)