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Teen suicide on the rise in York County

Katherine Ranzenberger
505-5439/@YDKatherine
  • Six people between the ages of 14 and 18 have committed suicide in York County in 2016.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-24.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free phone call away at 1-800-273-8255.

Six high-school-aged teens have taken their lives in York County so far in 2016, and the year is only halfway through.

Billy Sechrist, of York City, holds a photo collage of his daughter, Shania, at his home Friday, May 27, 2016. Shania Sechrist, who was 15 and a student at William Penn Senior High School, took her own life after she came home from school Wednesday. Amanda J. Cain photo

York County Coroner Pam Gay said she is very concerned for the mental and physical well-being of teens in the area. According to data from the York County Coroner's Office, five teens from York County have committed suicide, while one teen from Maryland took his life in the county.

That's twice as many as the highest number of suicides for teens aged 13 through 18 in the past six years.

Gay

"That's the highest number we've ever had," Gay said. "We've only had at most three teen suicides within a year. We need to remind ourselves what to look for to help those teens."

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Gay said she can't explain why teens are feeling the need to end their lives when they have so much potential. She said she's talked with families about what their sons and daughters might have been struggling with and has narrowed it down to three primary reasons.

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Some of the suicides can be from a relationship that's struggling to stay alive or one that just ended. The teen may lose hope, Gay said, wrapping themselves up in the relationship, making it their life.

Another big reason for teen suicide is cyberbullying. At the end of May, Billy Sechrist found his 15-year-old daughter, Shania, after she hanged herself. She left a note, saying she loved her family but couldn't bear the pain of being bullied any more.

"'I tried telling you something bad would happen, but no one listened,'" he said, crying as he read from her suicide note.

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Sechrist said his daughter first told him about the bullying about four months earlier. Much of it came through the digital realm — via Facebook and texts.

Shania battled anxiety and depression, he said. A couple of months before her suicide, at William Penn Senior High School, where she was a freshman, Shania fought another girl.

"A person can only take so much," Sechrist said.

Academic struggles also can lead to thoughts of suicide, Gay said. Frustration with classwork can lead to frustration at home, and that can leave bruises on interpersonal relationships.

"Sometimes there are multiple issues," Gay said. "It's hard to pinpoint just one area that causes this. Most of the suicides are during the school year."

Getting teens the right resources will help prevent future suicide attempts, she said. Making sure these teens know they're loved and supported can help, too, and helping break the stigma of treatment and reaching out for help can be positive.

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If you are ever feeling as though you can't make it through the day or through life, call someone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They're a free phone call away at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with them online.

There are local resources in York County, too, including the WellSpan Health suicide hotline at 717-851-5320 or 1-800-673-2496. TrueNorth Wellness Services is affiliated with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and has multiple locations throughout York County, including Hanover and Shrewsbury. The service can be reached immediately for help at 1-866-325-0339.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDKatherine.