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Warning signs: Experts outline what to look for to prevent teen suicide

Originally published by Dolly A Butz on the Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | Sleeping all day, barely eating, withdrawing from friends and activities and self-harming behaviors like cutting are not just a phase, but signs that a teenager could be contemplating suicide.

But Daniel Gillette, physician leader for behavioral health at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's, said the ways teens hint at their intentions are not always explicit or shared with adults.

"If you have a gut feeling that you should be worried about your friend, your gut's probably right," he said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24. Approximately 4,600 young lives are lost each year in the United States to suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, scientific evidence has shown that most people who take their own life have a diagnosable mental or substance-abuse disorder. Depression, a treatable condition, is associated with suicidal behavior.

Sean Akers, a pediatric psychologist at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, will give a presentation on teen suicide Oct. 2 at the Upper Midwest Regional Pediatric Conference in Sioux City. He said the vast majority of teens who attempt suicide reveal their intentions beforehand.

"They may not go out and say, 'I'm thinking of killing myself,' but they're going to start mentioning certain things," he said. "We can't not take it seriously."

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