Thousands contemplate suicide each year

The Milford community is struggling to understand the loss of a 2017 Milford High School graduate.

Alex Creasey, with his mop of curly blond hair and easy smile, was a wrestling star, a top student and a volunteer. He was in his nineteenth year of life and had just finished his first semester at Delaware State University with straight A’s when he died by suicide Jan. 25.

“He was the kind of kid parents wish their kids were more like,” said Karli Crenshaw, a friend of the family. “He was extremely kind, intelligent and sincere and had a work ethic that you just don’t see in kids. He always went the extra mile and was always very humble about his achievements.”

It’s hard to understand why such a bright young man would take his life. After a suicide, when confusion abounds, an expert is sometimes helpful.

Dr. Harvey Doppelt is the Director of the Specialized Service Unit in the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, a leg of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families, for Delaware. He is the principal investigator in a Project SAFETY Suicide Grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“There are a lot of students that attempt suicide,” Doppelt said. “In 2015, about 8 percent of high school students tried to kill themselves in Delaware. I’ve done the numbers, and we’re talking slightly over 3,000 kids.”

The key word is “attempt.” The number of successes is much lower.

“For every successful suicide, there are 100 to 200 unsuccessful attempts,” he said.

In 2015 Delaware’s suicide rate was on par with the national average at a little over 1 per 10,000 residents, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Warning signs

Interest in suicide is in itself a warning sign your teen could be suicidal.

“They may write or draw something very dark at school,” Doppelt said. “Talking about suicide is a warning sign.”

It’s important to give someone taking interest in suicide the attention they need.

“A key characteristic of a suicidal person is that they’re ambivalent, meaning they don’t want to die but they don’t want to live,” Doppelt said. “You can easily dissuade them into living, for the moment, just by asking them about it, and then you can get them help.”

Other signs include behavioral changes, isolation, loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed and major changes in sleep patterns.

“These things are indicative of someone who is struggling and might not be suicidal, but should be assessed,” Doppelt said.

He recommends parents monitor social media accounts.

“Sometimes kids are very clear in what they’re writing online,” he said.

Resources

If you sense an imminent danger of suicide in a friend or family member, call the police or take them to a hospital emergency department.

Doppelt said parents who are unsure of their child’s intentions can contact Delaware’s Mobile Crisis Unit, which will send professionals to evaluate the child. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1-800-969-HELP. Insurance is not required.

A suicidal teen can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Recently, thanks to Doppelt’s Project SAFETY Suicide Grant, a crisis text line became available in Delaware. You can text “DE” to 741741 any time to chat.

“A lot of times, kids just need to talk,” Doppelt said.

Preventing the next one

One healthy way of coping the loss of a family member or friend is working to prevent it from happening to someone else.

Crenshaw started a Facebook page called “Creasey’s Cause.” She’s selling specially-made T-shirts. The proceeds go to Creasey’s family.

“We hope to help raise awareness about suicide prevention,” she said. “Alex was always willing to help those in need around him. It’s only fitting that tradition live on in his honor.”

You can visit the page here.