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Concerning Insight Into Teen Suicide

Posted at: 10/11/2012 6:42 PM
Updated at: 10/11/2012 6:48 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- A horrifying day for students at a small North Dakota high school. Investigators say in the middle of algebra class, a freshman boy took out a gun and shot himself.

It happened in the small farming community of Fairmount, just across the Minnesota border from Fergus Falls. The boy is in the hospital, but his condition is unclear. It all happened the same day a new study was released looking at suicide among Minnesota teens.

The study, done by the University of Missouri, surveyed 60,000 Minnesota teenagers. Researchers hope the findings will help parents, educators, even medical professionals recognize those at risk and hopefully prevent something like what happened Thursday in North Dakota.

"Witnesses say that the student walked to the front of the class and shot himself," said Richland Co. Sheriff Larry Leshovsky. A horrifying event that investigators are calling attempted suicide.

Everyone knows everybody and if there would've been any sign whatsoever, I know some of his classmates would have said something,” said Superintendent Ron Stahlecke.

Those at the small school in North Dakota say they had no idea the freshman was capable of harming himself like this. A reaction experts say isn't uncommon.

"Even if they're engaging in non suicidal self injury, they are experiencing significant distress. Most of the reason they say young people report engaging in this behavior is to regulate certain emotions, so it’s not about seeking attention," said Lindsay Taliaferro, an assistant professor of health sciences at Missouri University.

That's what the study released Thursday found to be the most common reason for suicidal behavior. "Their seeking relief from intense emotions or other psychological distress," said Psychologist Mark Imig.

Of the Minnesota students surveyed, more than 4,000 said they've purposely hurt themselves. Half of those have attempted suicide. “I always start at the beginning and try to figure out what's going on from the teenager or child's perspective," said Imig.

"Kids in high school have taken it in and let it ruin their happiness, they have a long life to live but they just let it totally ruin who they are," said Shelley Letendre, creator of the suicide awareness group Desperate Tears.

However, some students aren't as vocal about the way they're feeling. For some it takes a lot of courage to reach out for help and that's the most important step.

"Make sure that people feel safe talking about that, and if suicide is kind of a stigma, then it creates more of a shame and more privacy," said Imig.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens. If you know somebody or if you are having suicidal thoughts, there is help available. The first step again, is to talk with someone.