'Teens and Suicide': A WGEM News In-Depth Report (Part 1) - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

'Teens and Suicide': A WGEM News In-Depth Report (Part 1)

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Classmates created makeshift memorial on Billy's locker. Classmates created makeshift memorial on Billy's locker.
Billy's friends lean on each other as they deal with the loss. Billy's friends lean on each other as they deal with the loss.
Coorod lost son, Billy, to suicide last August. Coorod lost son, Billy, to suicide last August.
QHS Principal Edgar says students are asking questions about suicide. QHS Principal Edgar says students are asking questions about suicide.
Whitcomb's son, Dylan, committed suicide last November. Whitcomb's son, Dylan, committed suicide last November.
ADAMS COUNTY, Ill. (WGEM) -

Suicide is the third leading cause of death of those ages 10 to 24, according to the CDC. 

In the past six months, three Adams County teens have taken their own lives. 

"There's no new normal," Dawn Whitcomb said. "There's the life that I had before my child died and the life that I have now."

Whitcomb's son, Dylan, took his own life last November at just 18 years of age. 

Betty Coonrod also knows the searing pain of losing a child. Her 17-year-old son, Billy, committed suicide last August.

"I just remember saying over and over, 'What do I do?'" Coonrod said. "'How do I get to the next minute in my life without my son?,'"

Billy's family and friends at Payson-Seymour High School say they had no idea about the dark thoughts he had.

"Seeing his smile made my day," Jessica Glas said. 

"He always had a joke to tell," Brekken Flesner said. 

"Very funny," Andrew Schutte said. "Like a brother."

The tight group often talks about the funny, intelligent, computer savy friend they lost.  They say they lean on each other to deal with the grief.

"My friends are a lifesaver," Glas said.  "I took it really hard and I wouldn't say they took it any harder then I did.  They were kind of that backbone for me.  If I needed something I went to them.  We didn't have to say any words we just sat there and held hands and cried."
 
"I have fallen so hard back on my friends," Kira Eidson said.  "You think that you are close and then something like this happens and you realize how close you were and how important those people are."

Quincy High School lost two seniors to suicide in three months.

"The students are scared," Whitcomb said. "They are afraid. They are like, 'Is it going to happen to one of my friends? Who is going to be next?'"

"Kids are telling us that they want to talk to them about it," QHS Principal Danielle Edgar said. "They want to know adult stories. They want to know what they can do to help a friend. We have a lot of kids who are experiencing anxiety and depression and they want to know they are not alone."

A community action group made up of school staff and students, medical professionals, suicide survivors and victims' families has recently been created to address the growing need. All agree something needs to be done. They are exploring many avenues, from guest speakers to student training.

"What we are talking about now is prevention," Edgar said. "Really educating kids about the things they are asking us to know. We want to train kids in how to get the help another kid might need."

Along with the stigma associated with mental illness and fear of seeking help, Quincy Medical Group Behavior Health Therapist Tiffaney Rains says in the teens she woks with, there's often a key underlying issue.

"We've become a society of independence, and you have to take care of yourself and you can't need anything from anyone, but at our core, we are meant to be in connection with other people," Rains said.

"Kids need to take individual responsibility for themselves and recognize when they are having these feelings and having these thoughts that it's okay to reach out," Coonrod said. 

Rains says that can be anyone, from a family member or friend, to a teacher or therapist.

Coonrod and Whitcomb hope sharing their stories will save other families from the same tragedies.

"Suicide is a permanent solution to a short-term problem," Whitcomb said.

The latest survey from the United Way of Adams County shows 26 percent of 10th graders have contemplated suicide.

Click here for a several available resources locally.

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