From other editors: Iowa survey produces troubling numbers on teens, suicide

Mental health care system for children should be a priority

These deeply disturbing numbers in a recent Iowa Department of Public Health survey should force all Iowans to sit up and take notice:

• One in 10 Iowa teens report “having a plan to kill themselves,” a 53 percent increase since 2012.

• One in 20 Iowa teens have attempted suicide within the last year.

The study for 2018, which was released in March, included more than 70,000 teens in grades six, eight and 11.

Achieving a decline in the troubling, unacceptable statistics about teen suicide in our state must be a priority.

We believe one significant contribution to what should be a state strategy is a bill passed by the Iowa House last month through which the framework of a new state board-supervised mental health care system for children will be created. We urge Senate approval of a companion bill.

The legislation shouldn’t and we don’t believe will represent the end of discussion about issues like teen suicides or children and mental health in Iowa, but rather it’s a valuable, if not overdue step in the right direction.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Iowans age 15 to 34 and is the third-leading cause of death for Iowa children age 10 to 14. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teens age 15 to 19 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“Reports of suicide in teens have increased almost 200 percent since the 1960s, compared to a 17 percent increase in the general population,” Foundation 2, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, not-for-profit human service agency offering crisis prevention and intervention programs to people of all ages, reports on its website.

The response of Iowa to teens and suicide isn’t limited to state government. Indeed, all Iowans — families and friends, educators, health care professionals and public leaders — must be engaged for progress to happen on this front.

It will, to use the words of a well-known, oft-quoted saying, take a village.

-Sioux City Journal

April 4, 2019

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