Teen bullying & suicide - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Teen bullying & suicide

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

More than 4,000 young people commit suicide, each year.

In fact, it's the third leading cause of death among young people. And, victims of bullying are more likely to consider taking their own lives.

All this has raised a red-flag about bullying-related suicides.

Bully-related suicide can be the result of any type of bullying. That can be physical, emotional, cyber bullying, sexting, or circulating suggestive photos or messages about a person.

All these can lead a young person to take their own life.

In Birmingham, a panel of women who work in suicide prevention and psychiatry are working to save lives.

Erin Jones, a suicide line coordinator at The Crisis Center in Birmingham, has seen the connection between bullying and suicide.

"Bullying is a great example of why these people feel like that is their only choice," says Jones.

Dr. Kira Fonbah, a child psychiatrist with UAB, says the first line of protecting teens from bullying-suicide starts with teachers and parents.

"A lot of teachers, parents, feel ill equipped and don't know what to do," says Fonbah. "The reason why I say teachers first is because for some children and teens. They don't feel like they can automatically talk to their parents. So, teachers may see behaviors for which they become concerned."

Dr. Judith Harrington, a counselor and suicide prevention advocate, says social media has brought bullying to more than a physical level.

"Now that we have so much technology and social media, there's secret ways that people can bully," says Harrington.

Her advice.

"Be vigilant about what (your) kids are doing on social media, the internet, and with their texting."

Abby Litovsky, a suicide prevention coordinator with The Crisis Center, says bullying alone typically doesn't cause a young person to want to commit suicide.

But it could push them past the breaking point.

She wants these young people to know, "There are resources. There is help. If someone is suicidal, that's not their only choice. There are options for them to get help."

Some of the warning signs include:

•showing signs of depression,
•talking about or showing an interest in death or dying
•engaging in dangerous or harmful activities
•giving away favorite possessions and saying goodbye to people
•saying or expressing that they can't handle things anymore

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact The Crisis Center at (205) 323-7777.

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