Friday, June 29, 2012
Recent Northbrook Suicides And Contagion; How Many More Will Be Lost?
Two recent and apparently "appropriately" reported on suicides have occurred in Northbrook the past few weeks. 17 Year old Billy Garrity on June 14th , and his cousin Ryan McCarthy on June 28th both died at their homes and apparently at their own hands. I previously wrote a few stories regarding "contagion" and how it may or may not have applied to the Lake Forest suicides this past winter. Before that it was Barrington and several other suburban towns. Although the newspaper reporting on the Northbrook loss of life was well within guidelines set forth for publicizing such occurrences ( http://northernillinoissuicideassessment.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=2) I fear that contagion has most likely already taken hold and that some of the action already underway in Northbrook may be the best way to stop or hold it to a minimum.
A suicide cluster is defined by Scientists as three or more suicides in a specific location that occur over a short period of time. Contagion is a term used to identify those situations where there is some linkage between the deaths such as personal knowledge of each other, a shared identity as in school attendance or simply an age range within a specific geographical location. While the term cluster denotes a linkage of location, contagion describes an hypothesized relationship that is in some way related to cause and effect.
In Northbrook the information is already out there. Kids and parents are already informed. Any adolescent already thinking about taking their life knows (maybe personally, maybe not) two others who have. Following in someones footsteps is often easier than being the first. Because of this I think the actions of St. Norbert's and The Village Presbyterian Church in getting kids together to talk is a good idea. In fact I think Glenbrook North and the Village of Northbrook should become observable stakeholders and use their resources to get the message out and if nothing else hold listening sessions and get parents and others relevant information.
As a parent myself I'd take the opportunity to talk seriously with my kids, one on one. And I'd do it sooner than later. The worst possible outcome from that is more quality time with a parent. I don't see a downside? I'd also hope that parents pay attention and listen more than talk. Ask about the why's and the perspectives of the other adolescents regarding these deaths; no holds barred, be open and frank. Almost all these talks will be unnecessary but one or two may choose not to have these talks and time will tell regarding those outcomes. For those kids who can't or won't talk to parents, others in the community have to stand up and make themselves available.
Youtube Video on Talking to kids about suicide: