I saw your piece covering the Town Hall meeting during National Suicide Prevention Week entitled “It’s time for our community to talk about suicide.” I wanted to just add a couple of statistics in case you were unaware of them.
The 2011 Charlotte Mecklenburg Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 15.3 percent of high school students in Mecklenburg county had attempted suicide in the previous 12 months. That number is shocking. The overall N.C. number is 5 percent and the national number is 7.8 percent, making the Mecklenburg county rate three times the NC average and double the national average. Just to flesh that number out, in 2010-2011, I think there were 38,716 students registered in CMS in grades 9-12, meaning that roughly 5,900 high school students attempted suicide in 2011.
Not all states mandate suicide prevention programs. CMS has next to nothing, and one of the poorest commitments to counseling and mental health programs in general. Counselor caseloads are several times the recommended levels, and counselors are overloaded with paperwork and administrative tasks rather being able to focus on the mental health of students.
The Surgeon General has just come out with a new National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (the first since 2001), so the time is ripe to push CMS to step up its game. If you haven’t seen it, back in 2009, PBS aired a fabulous special on suicide prevention programs in schools, entitled A Cry for Help http://www.pbs.org/wnet/cryforhelp/
Thanks for your piece.