CHAGRIN FALLS, OHIO (WJW) – It’s a seemingly insurmountable task, trying to curb skyrocketing suicide rates among children.
It’s a mission LifeAct, a nonprofit suicide prevention organization based in Chagrin Falls, continues to work towards. The organization implemented programming in more than 200 Ohio middle and high schools, providing what CEO Jack Binder calls lifesaving intervention.
“10 to 14-year-old children, the rate of suicide for them in the last 10 years has grown almost 300 percent, so it’s getting younger at the same time it’s increasing in aggregate,” said Binder.
This is National Suicide Prevention Week. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists suicide as the third leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24 in Ohio.
“Suicide prevention doesn’t need a week, it needs 365 days, it’s an epidemic,” said Binder. “That was here long before COVID and will be here long after COVID and unfortunately is getting worse every year.”
LifeAct, in partnership with University Hospitals, creates educational programming presented during a two-day course at schools to identify behaviors or warning signs that need intervention.
“Pre COVID we were serving 30,000 students with our program every year, of that number over 3,000 students came forward seeking help,” Binder said.
The turning point, Binder said, was in 2008 when he first saw how much more prevalent suicide rates were among young people.
“Children, little kids are being forced to grow up much faster and they’re not prepared for that. Social media has an awful way of making people feel isolated and small,” he said. “For this generation of kids, there’s no such thing as PG-13 or R rating in life they have social media…they’re exposed to everything, they’re not protected from anything. So, to pretend they don’t know about it or it’s not impacting their life it just doesn’t make any sense.”
Binder said the two-day course offered through LifeAct programming is revealing and sometimes frightening. He said it gives students the chance to reach out and ask for help even if they cannot express what is wrong.
“‘I have a problem, I don’t know what it is,'” said Binder of what students reveal. “‘…I need to talk to somebody,’ and if we can get them to that point where they will seek professional help and guidance we’ve won, we’ve got them down that path.”
With stakes this high, no matter how uncomfortable the conversation, it’s one that cannot wait he said.
LifeAct will host its 18th Annual Into the Light Walk on October 9th at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo focused on depression awareness and suicide prevention.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for assistance.