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'Kids in Crisis' explores warning signs: Youth Service Bureau helps parents with self harm, suicide warnings

Rochelle Kruszka with the Youth Services Bureau gave parents strategies for speaking to kids thinking about suicide or self harm Sept. 28. Katie Nelson / RiverTown Multimedia

When a teenage boy gave away his prized hockey stick, it may have been a sign he was contemplating suicide.

His parents did not think they saw any warning signs, but after his death by suicide they realized this could have been one, said Rochelle Kruszka with the Youth Service Bureau.

Kruszka was the featured speaker at the latest installment of the Public Safety Board's Grove 411 series "Kids in Crisis" Sept. 28.

In a school district where students in responded in the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey that between 35 and 45 percent of students in grades 8, 9 and 11 felt depressed several or more days in a two-week period, Kruszka gave some warning signs for parents to watch for that could signal their kids are self-harming or considering suicide.

Warning signs that teenagers are self-harming can often include wearing long sleeved shirts and pants even in warmer weather, several or stacked bracelets they won't take off, several accidents followed by flimsy excuses and blood found on bedsheets, clothings or in the trash.

Contagion is also commonly seen in schools, Kruszka said. If one person in a friend group starts self-harming, their friends may start too.

"There's all kinds of sharing and comparing," she said.

An average of 16 percent on 8th, 9th and 11th graders in the South Washington County School District reported one to five incidents of self harm over the past year in the student survey.

Warning signs that teens are seriously considering suicide includes a change in behavior, loss of interest the things that are important to them, taking unnecessary risks, talking about feeling hopeless, withdrawal from friends and family, changes in sleep, giving away their prized possessions and anger or hostility.

Kruszka said that while depression is also a warning sign, the more warning emotion is anger.

"With kids you're not going to see sadness as much, you will see irritability," Kruszka said. The survey found that nearly a quarter of south Washington County 11th-graders have seriously considered suicide.

More and more, Kruszka said she's seeing attempts by kids who have had a "situational exposure online" or on social media after online attacks or nude photos are leaked.

"There's a lot of that happening nowadays, and it can be really traumatising to kids," she said.

There can also be contagion among students after a classmate dies by suicide.

"It can happen in clusters," Kruszka said.

Middle and high schoolers are more likely to use text or chat than a phone call for resources, Kruszka said.

Resources for teens in need of help can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741-741, chat on imalive.org, or text Bridge for Youth at 612-400-SAFE. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK or online at crisischat.org.

For emergency help, the Canvas Health Mobile Crisis Response is available in Washington County 24/7 at 651-777-5222.

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