ABBOT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Talking about suicide is not easy, especially with kids.
But death by suicide has been on the rise in Maine and across the country for more than a decade, making the role of mental health organizations and advocates even more important.
"I wish I had had more education so I would have been more aware of the warning signs,” said Cheryl Morin.
Her son Joe died of suicide at the age of 19. Now nearing what would have been his 31st birthday, Cheryl helps others through The JD Foundation.
"Somebody my son's age of 19. I don't think he understood,” Morin said. "Today's world is very different. It's very different from when I grew up."
David Easler is one of many Morin has connected with in her efforts. His son Jonathan died by suicide at the age of 22.
"We knew some of the signs and symptoms and that's what worried us the most," Easler said. "We were afraid that the end may be suicide which it turned out to be."
The Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said it is seeing more instances of suicides among younger people across the state.
"Almost always there are some of those warning signs around,” said Greg Marley, a clinical director with NAMI.
He is concerned with the increase in suicide deaths, especially in children, and ties to social media.
With cell phones, the internet and social media becoming even more pervasive, the information is overwhelming.
"Parents don't want to take the time out or they're too busy to go to a workshop to learn," Morin said. "The other piece is they're afraid that that could be a reality in their life."
At times that content can be disturbing, something Marley said is even more concerning.
"[Social media] is inevitable," Marley said. "It's a part of our lives and a very important part of our lives whether you're 50 or 16 or increasingly 8, 9, 7."
He said that is not too young to start the conversation and recommends the following steps:
- Acknowledge that suicide happens, don't deny it
- Create an environment for conversation about how your child feels
- Tell them where they can go for help or support
"I know that he's the one who chose to make that decision, however, the more protective factors that people have the better off they are,” Morin said.
She urges parents to talk to their kids even if it's hard.
"You have to start the dialogue, you have to be nonjudgmental and you have to show that you care,” Morin said.
NAMI, the Maine Suicide Prevention Program and state Department of Education have all become more vigilant in schools training teachers and staff members as well.
If you or someone you know needs immediate help you can call the state's 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-888-568-1112.
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