How to Tell a Teen Suicide Story

Journalists usually avoid suicide stories. It is especially difficult when the death involves a child or teenager. But about 4,500 kids took their own life in 2004, according to an AP story, and more attempted it.

KARE-TV in Minneapolis, Minn., decided to tell the story of a teen who took his life. Take a look at the piece.

The teen in KARE-11′s story died from hanging. Earlier this year I told you about something called “the choking game” in which kids unintentionally kill themselves. A national study says coroners need to be educated about the practice so they don’t mistakenly label deaths as suicide when they are really accidental.

Here are guidelines on covering suicides [PDF] from the American Association of Suicidology.

Here are some teen suicide facts taken from a 2007 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • In 2004, suicide was the third-leading cause of death in the United States among youths and young adults 10 to 24 years old, accounting for 4,599 deaths.
  • For more than a decade (1990-2003) the suicide rate among people 10 to 24 years old dropped — down a stunning 28.5 percent.
  • But from 2003 to 2004, the rate increased by 8 percent. (2004 is the most recent year available.)
  • From 2003 to 2004, suicide rates shot up for females between the ages of 10 and 14 and females aged 15 to 19, reversing an earlier trend.
  • The latest data also shows a marked increase in teen deaths by hanging or suffocation (the same method used in the KARE-TV story).
  • Especially noteworthy is that girls have begun hanging themselves in numbers never seen before. In 1990, firearms were the most common suicide method among females between the ages of 10 and 24 — more than half in each five-year age group. However, from 1990 to 2004, suicide by hanging or suffocation became the most common method in all three age groups:
    • 71.4 percent of suicides of 10- to 14-year-olds.
    • 49 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds.
    • 34.2 percent of 20- to 24-year olds.

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