Teen Suicide: Becoming Almost 'Commonplace,' Reports State Act Is Like A Contagion

Jessica Dafoe

Across the United States, teen suicide has become a more frequent tragic reality that is occurring at higher rates. In El Paso County, the youngest person to die by suicide this year was merely 13. Dr. Leon Kelly, one of the region's county deputy chief medical examiners, shared how tragic the statistics are and the lack of control adults seem to have over the epidemic.

"[Even] for a job that's generally pretty tragic, it's disheartening. You feel powerless. You feel like, Another one? Another day, another kid. It's hard."

— jim impoco (@jimpoco) October 20, 2016

Newsweek shares specific details about the studies.

"Using a statistical formula typically applied to tracking outbreaks of diseases, researchers at Columbia University and other institutions confirmed in 1990 that suicide is contagious and can be transmitted between people. Contagion spreads either directly, by knowing a suicide victim, or indirectly, by learning of a suicide through word-of-mouth or the media. Those same researchers found that people ages 15 to 19 are two to four times more prone to suicide contagion than people in other age groups. The way it spreads can be so similar to that of diseases that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sometimes gone into a region to investigate spikes in suicides."
"It's become almost commonplace. Because it doesn't happen once every four years. It happens four times in a month, sometimes."

— Dr. Drew (@DrDrewHLN) February 22, 2016

It's reported that it is not just young people that are facing a suicide epidemic. The suicide rate across the nation in all demographics is said to be at a 30-year high. However, more than three times as many teens are killing themselves now than in the 1950s. Most suicides are not those associated with contagion reports or copycats, yet some areas in addition to those discovered in Colorado Springs are reporting similar cases of cluster suicides in teen populations.

In one heartbreaking case, involving the daughter of Lucrecia Sjoerdsma, her mother was sure that her daughter's seemingly jovial demeanor and the fact that she was always smiling meant she was a content teen. The 15-year-old used white strips to keep her teeth white, which caused her to smile all the more and she was known as a goofy and kind kid. She would sense when others were down and would do what she could to cheer them up. She liked to hike and rock climb and spoke frequently about her future.

Riley, however, knew of at least two other classmates who had killed themselves, and officials began to believe they were witnessing a copycat effect. The contagion took hold and Riley followed suit. The publication shares the details about the case.

"Riley was staying at her father's house one night when she downed a small bottle of whiskey, then sent out a series of troubling texts and Snapchat messages. 'I'm sorry it had to be me,' she wrote to one friend. Then she slipped on a blue Patagonia fleece and snuck out the basement window, carrying her father's gun."

[Feature Image by David Silverman/Getty Images]