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Teen suicide risk continues to rise in Texas

According to the CDC's 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 37 percent of Texas high school students surveyed reported feeling sad or hopeless for weeks on end. (CBS Austin)

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Texans ages 15 to 34. The Texas State Legislature has passed new laws aimed at suicide prevention but it remains a growing public health problem.

According to the CDC's 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 37 percent of Texas high school students surveyed reported feeling sad or hopeless for weeks on end. The CDC survey found 18 percent of those students said they had seriously considered killing themselves in the past year and 12 percent said they did try to kill themselves.

"Nationwide there's been an increase in youth suicide -- particularly in 10 to 14-year-olds -- which is a very concerning change," says Dr. Melissa Deuter, MD and owner of Sigma Mental Health Urgent Care.

Deuter is both a practicing physician and psychiatrist in Texas working to fight the growing suicide rate in young people. She says relying on teachers to identify suicide risk in students can't be the primary solution.

"Our educators are trained to teach our children and don't really have the time or the experience to be our primary front in terms of suicide prevention," Deuter says.

In 2015 the Texas legislature passed a law expanding suicide prevention training for teachers. It was a bill the Association of Texas Professional Educators took to lawmakers.

"That bill was not the end of the process. It was only a part of the process and we definitely need to continue moving forward," says ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter.

Exter says recognizing mental health challenges in students is critical in improving school safety.

"Not only can we save their lives but the small minority of those suicidal kids that channel that desperation into violence we can also stop a lot of that from happening and save other students' lives at the same time," he says.

Dr. Dueter wants to see the state fund more student resources and connect families with treatment.

"We can send our teachers to classes but we need to make sure those kids can see a counselor, see a doctor, go to a hospital and get the actual mental health medical care that they need," Deuter says.

She adds, parents being able to talk to their kids about mental health is an important part of suicide prevention. On Monday, September 24, Integral Care is offering a youth-focused mental health first aid course. The one-day class is for anyone who works with kids -- including parents. The class teaches the signs to look for when a child may be thinking about killing themselves. To register for the class, click here.

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