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Perspective | New child death report shows NC youth suicide at all-time high

Last week, the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force met to review the latest report on child deaths in North Carolina. The report shows that overall, child deaths in North Carolina reached an all-time low in 2018 of 54.5 deaths per 100,000 children ages 0-17. View the full report on Child Death in 2018 here.

However, in 2018, death by one cause, suicide, has reached its highest rate ever. Fifty-two North Carolina children ages 10-17 died by suicide last year. The greatest number of these children used a gun to kill themselves, according to the Child Fatality Task Force report. To address this growing crisis, the Child Fatality Task Force recommended school-based suicide prevention training and risk referral protocol to the legislature in 2018.

“The House has passed a suicide prevention bill five times over the past two years. Despite multiple opportunities and the longest legislative session in recent history, the North Carolina Senate has still not had a hearing on this suicide prevention legislation,” said Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child, who serves on the Child Fatality Task Force.

Just before adjournment on October 31, the North Carolina Senate appointed four members to a joint “conference committee” with the House to work out differences in Senate Bill 476, legislation that would enact school-based suicide prevention measures. The Senate adjourned before taking up the measure. However, S.B. 476 is eligible for consideration during the scheduled November and January special sessions.

“NC Child calls on the North Carolina Senate to pass school-based suicide prevention training as soon as possible — before one more child raises warning flags that go unrecognized,” said Hughes.

The Child Fatality Task Force is a legislative study commission that examines the causes of child death and makes recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on how to reduce child death, prevent abuse and neglect, and support the safety and well-being of children. The full report on child deaths in 2018 can be found on the Task Force’s website.

Editor’s note: This perspective was first published by NC Child. It has been posted with the author’s permission.

Fawn Pattison

Fawn Pattison is the Communications Director and Senior Campaign Advisor at NC Child.