Percentage of Idaho high school students with suicidal thoughts on the rise

Natalie Shaver, KTVB

BOISE - A recent survey found more than 20 percent of high school students in Idaho have seriously considered suicide.

More than 1,800 high school students across the state participated in a survey done by the State Department of Education. Researchers found since 2009, the percentage of students who have considered suicide has been on the rise. The survey shows in 2017, 21.7 percent of high school students have considered suicide. That's the highest percentage in 10 years.

“A small uptick, but it's going the wrong direction," said Matt McCarter, who’s with the State Department of Education. 

It's a concern for the state department of education, he said, so they use the information collected from these surveys to help. They design programs and trainings to teach educators and students about how to address suicide.

"Sources of Strength is a program that's in about 47 schools right now. We grow every year,” McCarter said. “It really focuses on cultivating resilience, hope, strength and identifying how students can leverage their internal sources of strength that help them get over something challenging or difficult. And how can they be a source of strength to their peers that may be struggling themselves."

The ideal goal is to have a variety of different programs and trainings available to school districts across the state. Even ones that go beyond those in the education system.

"Student contemplation of suicide is not a school issue alone,” he said. “There's more forces at play." How can we leverage families, communities to be just as aware?"

George Austin, who’s with the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, agrees that it’s united effort. He said getting rid of the stigma that comes along with suicide is a huge factor in making a change.

“The thing about suicide is that it historically has been a taboo subject,” Austin said. “People don't like to talk about it. It's scary. The only way to really be safe from it is to engage in conversations."

He said isolation can play a role in suicidal thoughts, and showing someone they aren't alone can make a difference.

"Make sure that they know that it is safe to talk, and that you're not going to over react,” he said. “For many people who are suicidal it's a relief that they actually get to share that this is something they've been wrestling with."

Austin said it’s important to talk about these issues with your children whether they are showing signs. You can learn more about what those signs are and how to talk to your child here.

Anytime you or someone you know needs to talk, call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at (208) 398-4357.