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Teen suicides on the rise, parents urged to play a bigger role in prevention

Posted at 7:08 PM, Nov 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-10 18:05:43-05

A teen suicide epidemic in the East Valley has tragically hit a death toll of 12 since the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

The latest student to take their own life affecting the Corona del Sol High School community. But this is a statewide issue as suicides have increased across Arizona by more than 80 percent in children.

"I felt like I was alone, I thought I was alone, but looking back I wasn't alone," said Natalia Chimbo-Andrade, who attempted suicide as a teen.

The attempt survivor is now a suicide prevention expert, and works as Director of Community Education & Outreach at Community Bridges.

But as a teen, life's pressures and loneliness engulfed her. And she kept it to herself.

"I didn't want to tell them what I was going through or what I was thinking. I was afraid they were going to label me as crazy or weird," said Chimbo-Andrade.

What Chimbo-Andrade didn't know at the time, is how much a fellow student's suicide had affected her.

She tells ABC15 that's why "post-vention" is critical for parents now that another student has taken their life.

According to experts, students in the area are more at risk to attempt it themselves.

Which is why Natalia and Arizona's Community Church's High School Director, Joseph Dodds, are calling on parents to take action.

"They need their parents to sit and listen from a non-judgemental point of view," said Chimbo-Andrade.

"The moment you shy away from those awkward, hard conversations ,is the moment they know it's not OK to talk," said Dodds.

Dodds runs the Arizona Community Church's "Real Talk" with teens program. The church is located across from Corona del Sol High School, and each week, he says around 30-60 students will attend.

They've been talking about suicide, and this week he says teens addressed emotional pain.

"Fifty to 75 percent said at one point already that they have had suicidal thoughts," said Dodds.

Both tell ABC15 parents need to get involved in the suicide issue.

Don't be afraid to give it a name or talk about it. Most of all they said to tell your teens and preteens you love them, they matter and don't assume they know it," Dodds said. "It's not all the things they accomplish, they can fail and they still matter."

Also get physical, and hug them often.

"And if they push you away and say everything is OK, just say I just want you to know that," said Chimbo-Andrade.

Let them know whatever they're going through will pass and perhaps make them stronger.

Also, they recommend parents not be afraid to reach out and get professional help for their children before it's too late.

We've listed resources here for anyone who needs help for themselves or a loved one.