Boys More Likely To Take Their Life Than Girls - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Boys More Likely To Take Their Life Than Girls

October 22nd, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Boys More Likely To Take Their Life Than Girls

By Jim Walsh


Teenage boys are ending their lives far more often than girls in the East Valley – reflecting an established national trend that has been confirmed tragically over and over again.

Experts say girls are more verbal and more likely to cry out for help, while boys often internalize their emotions after years of being told to be strong and tough out bad situations.

Katey McPherson, an education consultant and suicide prevention advocate, said 29 of the 31 East Valley teenagers who completed suicide in the past 15 months were boys, mostly White but some Hispanics, ranging in age from 10-18 years old.

She said some had been diagnosed with a mental condition such as depression or bipolar disorder, but others had never been diagnosed with a condition.

Girls often make some effort after making an unsuccessful suicide attempt, McPherson said.

Some who completed suicide had suffered significant trauma in their lives from the loss of a parent, had a history of being a foster child, or were abused in early childhood, but many others had none of these experiences.

An acute life crisis seemed to have contributed to some of the suicides, such as the loss of an intimate partner, loss of privileges or a substance abuse arrest, McPherson said.

“There is no one candidate. There is no zip code held harmless,’’ she wrote.

McPherson’s statistics are unofficial, based upon her extensive contacts in education during a 23-year career as a teacher and assistant principal in Gilbert Public Schools.

But her statistics mirror national trends.

The national Centers for Disease Control reported that suicide was the second leading cause of death in Arizona in 2016, with 152 people in the 15-24 age bracket taking their own life.

In those cases, 118 deaths involved males and 34 were females.

Nikki Kontz, clinical director for Teen Lifeline, said research consistently demonstrates that boys are more likely to complete suicide, while girls are more likely to attempt suicide.

While Teen Lifeline has historically received more calls from girls than boys seeking assistance, the gap between the sexes is narrowing, she said.

“Girls are encouraged to talk about their feelings a lot more. Boys are taught to suck it up and keep their feelings in,’’ Kontz said.

Kontz said that a state report found recently that 95 percent of people who completed suicide spoke about it with someone else. But for some reason, many warning signs were missed, and there was no referral to agencies such as hers or La Frontera Empact-Suicide Prevention, where help was available.

Kontz recently organized behavioral health agencies to train more than 800 teachers and other staff members in the Tempe Union High School District about recognizing the warning signs of suicide.

She also has been invited to serve as the keynote speaker at a girls retreat at Chandler’s Seton Catholic Preparatory. She said she is encouraged about the growing willingness to address the once shunned topic of teen suicide and that everyone needs to understand that lives can be saved and that deaths are not inevitable.

“We have to do it in a way that brings hope, that we can do something to change this,’’ Kontz said. “We have to educate our youth to identify what to do. It’s about bringing education to everyone who has relationships with our youth.’’