CDC issues final report on rash of downstate teen suicides

By Amy Cherry 4:35pm, March 18, 2013 - Updated 4:40pm, March 18, 2013
A final federal report is issued in the cluster of teen suicides in Kent and Sussex Counties.

WDEL's Amy Cherry has more.

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The report from the Centers for Disease Control finds no copy cat behavior among the 11 youth who took their lives downstate in a five-month period last year, including three at Polytech High School.

"A direct imitation of the exact method that a person used, and so we didn't find that there was enough evidence that person 'A' directly copied what person 'B' had actually done," says Dr. Alex Crosby with the CDC.

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The report found 116 non-fatal suicide attempts among youth ages 12 to 21, all of which had at least two risk factors, which include mental health or family problems. Two-thirds of suicides occurred among men while slightly over half of the suicide attempts were in women.

But the report doesn't answer the fundamental questions: what caused the suicide to spread and what caused it to stop? Crosby said suicide isn't like infectious diseases.

"It's oftentimes very difficult to predict who would engage in suicidal behavior.

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But Dr. Crosby says most often suicide clusters occur among youth and adolescents in rural or suburban communities.

News of the Polytech suicides spread on Twitter like wildfire, but Crosby maintains social media wasn't a key factor in the suicides.

The CDC recommends the following to prevent future suicides: training to identify at-risk youth and guide them to services; developing additional youth support programs, monitoring trends in youth suicidal behaviors, and implementing media guidelines for reporting on suicide.

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