Suicide threats concern Camden health officials

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KINGSLAND—A recent survey to determine the overall mental health of Camden County’s residents has revealed a disturbing trend.

Stress, underage alcohol and drug use, depression and attention deficit disorder were among the most concerning issues in Camden County.

The areas of biggest concern among health officials are those issues that indicate thoughts of suicide.

The survey taken last year determined an alarmingly high number of students in Camden County schools have considered suicide or exhibited behaviors that are considered high-risk factors for self harm.

Nearly 12 percent of eighth-graders said they harmed themselves on purpose during the past year. About 11 percent of eighth- and ninth-graders seriously considered suicide during the past year.

Six percent of students in the eighth and 11th grades admitted to attempting suicide in the last year.

More than 15 percent of students in eighth grade and below said they have been bullied or threatened by other students during the past 30 days. And more than 8 percent of students admitted to bullying classmates.

“Camden has high numbers of seventh, eighth and 11th grade students who bully others,” according to the report conducted for Camden Community Alliance & Resources. Bullying or being bullied are possible warning signs of suicide.

Celenda Perry, director of the community alliance in Camden County, said the high number of callers threatening suicide is a concern.

“Until we get people talking about this, it’s not normal,” she said. “The kids are presenting (signs).”

The majority of people who die by suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder that often is made worse with substance abuse. Other risk factors for suicide include prior suicide attempts, family history of mental disorder or substance abuse, family history of suicide, family violence, physical or sexual abuse, chronic pain or illness, and exposure to the suicidal behavior of others.

“The state has been concerned about Camden County for a number of years,” Perry said. “We’ve had suicidal threats even in elementary schools.”

Another concern is the way suicide statistics are kept. Perry said if law enforcement officials don’t find a suicide note, they don’t add it to the confirmed list of suicides — even if it’s obvious the case of death could only have been self-inflicted.

The study concluded suicidal thoughts were not the fault of the school system but from family and community domains.

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Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at or at 464-7655.

Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.