As officials continue to search for clues to what led four teenagers to kill themselves over an eight-day span, mental health experts say the answers likely lie in a complex series of life events rather than a single emotional trauma. The public has a tendency to look for quick-hit answers, such as bullying, a poor report card or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the experts said. That may make for a good "news bite," but the reality is far more complex, said Tony Salvatore, a suicide crisis counselor with Montgomery County and author of the pamphlet, "Suicide Loss: What Schools Should Know."
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Approximately 4,000 teenagers kill themselves nationwide each year. Research has shown suicide "doesn't just happen," Salvatore says in the pamphlet. It's the outcome of a complex intermingling of psychological, social, cultural and interpersonal factors over a period of time. Often persons who kill themselves suffer from depression or some other type of mental illness.
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