Warning signs of suicide every parent needs to know

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - It's a statistic that might shock you--one child under the age of 13 kills him or herself every five days, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.

Cleveland19 is getting answers on warning signs parents should look for as their children head back to school.

The CDC is warning of a spike in suicides among children, especially those 11 and 12 years old.

Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for teenagers.

But one local program is starting the conversation in schools, hoping to change that.

Dr. Susan McGrath is a clinical psychologist on the frontline.

"We're losing more and more teens each year to suicide. It's so preventable," she said.

It's not just teens. Children as young as seven and eight years old have died by suicide.

McGrath is an instructor for a local non-profit called LifeAct.

They're taking their message of suicide prevention into middle schools too.

"You can't wait until a kid is in 9th grade to be talking about depression and getting help for those kind of symptoms," McGrath said.

She has a clear message for students if one of their friends is talking about suicide.

"The absolutely only answer to that is to tell an adult. I don't care how good a friend you are, you cannot treat someone's depression, you cannot protect them from a suicide attempt," she said.

So as a parent, what can you do to protect them?

First, McGrath says control your child's cell phone.

By checking their activity, you know who they're talking to, and if they've been bullied.

"As a parent, you're still the boss of that cell phone. Your kid doesn't really have privacy," she said.

Next, she suggests talking to your child. It's important to know what's going on in their life, and who they're friends with.

Most importantly, know the warning signs of suicide.

"Changes in sleep, changes in eating, isolation, loneliness, irritability, not being able to focus. Anytime you see these kinds of changes, take them seriously," McGrath said.

If you see these signs, seek help from a counselor, even if your child refuses it.

You should also watch for a cry for help, but it's not always there.

"30 percent make a comment like that and then go with it. So take these comments absolutely to heart," McGrath said.

Life Act is a two-day program, taught in about 130 schools in the Cleveland area.

It doesn't cost schools a penny, since it's funded by grants and donations.

If you or your child needs help, you can call 844-604-LIFE or text 741-741 for assistance from their hotline.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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