Teen suicide is far too common – in fact, it is the leading cause of death in young people. This is highlighted by the recent death of 15-year-old Austin McEntyre in Heard County, Georgia, who took his own life after suffering from incessant bullying. His death occurred only two days after he finally told his mom about what he was going through at school. Now, his mom is speaking out about teen suicide, bullying, and how it needs to change.
Teen Suicide: A 15-Year-Old High School Student Takes His Own Life Because of Bullying
Austin McEntyre was a freshman at Heard County High School in Heard County, Georgia. On November 4th, he told his mom, Lisa McEntyre, that he wasn’t feeling well and therefore didn’t want to go to school. She was about to have him take a nasal swab to check for COVID when he finally confessed illness wasn’t making him want to stay home. Rather, it was because his fellow classmates were bullying him quite a lot. She asked Austin what exactly the kids had been doing. At first, he only spoke about one incident that had happened just a couple of days prior, when some kids “pantsed” him, boxers and all. (1)
Concerned, Lisa called the school. The principal assured her that they would be taking disciplinary measures against those students and that they had a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. In the coming days, Austin began to open up to Lisa more about how much he was being bullied at school. They walked around their property and Austin admitted to his mom that he didn’t feel as though he had many friends.
She recognized that her son was really struggling, and she asked him about suicidal thoughts. He assured her that he would not take his own life. Sadly, however, on November 6th, he did just that with the use of gun, being added to the tragically long list of teen suicides due to bullying.
Teen Suicide Is Far Too Common
Suicide continues to be the most common cause of death among school-aged youth. These deaths are, however, preventable. Often, young people give signs of their distress, even if they don’t openly talk about it. If parents, guardians, and teachers are aware of these signs, we can perhaps get these young people the help they need and prevent unnecessary loss of life.
Firstly, it is important to recognize suicide risk factors. This includes mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, and substance abuse. Family distress and dysfunction, as well as certain life crises such as abuse, loss of a loved one, and violence in the home, can also put teens at risk. Environmental factors such as guns in the home can also increase a teen’s risk of taking their own life. (2)
Warning Signs of Suicide
There are certain kinds of behavior to watch out for to know whether or not a young person is at risk for or contemplating suicide. Behavior changes, as well as changes in their appearance, thoughts, opinions, and feelings, can be the first warning signs. Preoccupation with death, as well as certain death-related statements, should also trigger red flags in adults’ minds. Statements like “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again” or “I am going to kill myself” should signal alarm bells. Previous suicidal behavior and suicide notes including posts online are another thing to watch out for. Finally, if you notice them making preparations, such as writing a will, giving away certain possessions, etc, are a major warning sign.
What To Do To Prevent Teen Suicide
If you notice any of these warning signs in someone you know, the first thing to do is remain calm. Ask the person directly if they are contemplating suicide. Do not beat around the bush, be direct. Listen to them and reassure them there is help available to them. Do your best to make them know that it won’t be like this forever. Don’t be accusatory or judge them, rather, focus on your concern for their wellbeing. Remove all possible means of self-harm and do not leave them alone.
Most importantly, get help. Even if they ask you not to tell anyone or keep it a secret, don’t do that. Tell their caregiving adult or a teacher or authority figure. Seek help from the community or school mental health resources.
Be sure to take, and continue to take, these threats and warning signs seriously. Don’t think just because they’ve “calmed down” or assured you that they are better now that they are. Get as much help and support as you can, and be sure to get them the professional help that they need. Though at first they may resist or even be mad at you because you didn’t keep their secret, in the end, it will be for the best possible outcome: That they do not take their own life.
Finally, if you or someone you know is suicidal, get help immediately via 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Crisis Text Line (text “HOME” to 741741) in the United States.
In Canada, Get support from a local crisis centre. There is also Talk Suicide Canada (1-833-456-4566), Kids Help Phone, the Hope for Wellness Help Line, and 1 866 APPELLE (277-3553) (Quebec residents), that all offer 24/7 support. Again, if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.
In the United Kingdom, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 0800 689 5652 or called emergency services.
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- “15-year-old dies by suicide 2 days after telling his mom he was being bullied at school.” 13 Wmaz. Cody Alcorn. November 14, 2022.
- “Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents & Educators.” NASP Online