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Arizona’s teen suicide rate up 25% in past 3 years, report finds

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PHOENIX — Arizona’s teen suicide rate has increased by 25% in the past three years, according to a new report.

The America’s Health Rankings Health of Women and Children report found that the rate rose from 10.4 to 13 suicide deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19.

“It’s a disturbing national trend that we’re seeing teen suicides increase across the board,” Dr. Janice Huckaby, chief medical officer at Optum Population Health Management, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

She said contributing factors include social isolation, bullying, drug use and difficulties at home.

LeAnn Hull of the Andy Hull Sunshine Foundation, who lost her 16-year-old son to suicide in 2012, told Arizona’s Morning News that parents should educate themselves on warning signs.

“(Andy) was not walking around sad. He wasn’t walking around like we want to box that person in as being depressed or label them as at-risk. That’s not what Andy looked like,” she said.

Hull said Andy experienced memory loss, problems with a teacher and a relationship issue after he began taking a prescription drug for acne called Accutane, which listed depression and suicidal behavior as possible side effects.

Hull now works with parents to help them begin a conversation about suicide with their children and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

“Start the conversation. Don’t wait for it to happen. Don’t wait for your kid to come and have that with you,” she said.

Huckaby said parents should work to keep a close and open relationship with their kids.

She said it’s important that “if you start seeing a change in behavior, an outgoing child that’s now withdrawn, to look for answers for that, to speak with the child, but also to be willing to ask others for help as well.

“It can be difficult steering children through adolescence, especially in this world with all kinds of pressures, but there are things parents can do.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report. 

Editor’s note: If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call Teen Lifeline at 800-248-8336 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 at 800-273-8255. 

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