Psychology Professor Scott Poland specializes in teen suicide prevention and he was in Huntsville Tuesday. He was educating parents about the warning signs of suicide and he brought some sobering statistics with him.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 10-14 year olds and the 3rd leading cause for 15 to 24 year olds in Alabama.
According to a 2017 survey roughly 17% of high school students seriously considered suicide in the last year.
According to Poland the problem of teen suicide is much bigger than people think. He said more than seven percent of high school students have attempted suicide one or more times in the last year. In a school of 2000 kids that's 148 kids.
"It was devastating to find out that that many kids are really out there harming themselves," said Michael Simmons.
Simmons has a child in Huntsville City Schools and he's also a mentor to students at Grissom High School. He has heard first hand of students struggling with depression.
"Later on you found out that they got into something, or tried to harm themselves," said Simmons.
Poland has decades of experience in identifying why teens become depressed and why some choose suicide. He said a contributing factor is how taboo the topic is.
"Many people unfortunately believe the idea that if we bring it up we might cause a kid to actually think about it when in reality bringing it up gives a kid a chance to unburden themselves to get the help they need," said Poland.
He said some warning signs parents need to look out for are: changes in mood, your child suddenly becoming disinterested in things they used to love, substance abuse, and signs of bullying.
"If their child is experiencing difficulty with depression they need to get professional help," said Poland.
Simmons said the more people learn about this topic, the more teens who can be saved. He took away different techniques of talking to his child from Professor Poland.
"To be able to talk with them more at their level vs. From a parent level; always talking down to them, at them, rather than to them. To refocus on that type thing and to ask more questions rather than always trying to give direction," said Simmons.
According to Poland Alabama ranks 24th in the United States for the number of suicides every year.