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New research could help prevent teen suicides in Bexar County

UTHSC researchers to present data at statewide meeting April 22-25

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports suicide is the third leading cause of death among U.S. teens ages 15 to 19. In Bexar County, the number of suicides among people under 19 has more than doubled in recent years. These figures are disturbing particularly to parents, teachers and health care workers.

In an effort to understand and prevent attempted suicides among teens in Bexar County, researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) will present findings of their recent study during the annual Texas Child Fatality Review Team Network Meeting April 22-25 at the Holiday Inn Riverwalk, 217 N. St. Mary's St. Joe Thornton, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and medical director of psychiatry at University Hospital, William Watson, Pharm.D., clinical professor of surgery and division chief of the South Texas Poison Center, Juan Parra, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Hispanic Center of Excellence in the School of Medicine, and Margaret Brackley, Ph.D., professor of chronic nursing care and director of the Center for Violence Prevention, will discuss their work on the South Texas Suicide Prevention Surveillance Project (ST-SPSP) from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Thursday, April 25.

The four researchers are using data gathered from the Child Fatality Review Team and the South Texas Poison Center. They analyzed the number of intentional ingestions of poisonous substances by teens and compared them with the pattern of completed suicides.

"We will present graphical data that demonstrate the relationship of completed suicides with the intentional ingestions," Dr. Thornton said. "A surveillance system, like the one we are working on, will be able to alert public health authorities to mobilize suicide prevention efforts where they are most needed. We are confident that the ST-SPSP will help prevent teens from taking their own lives."

Dr. Thornton said the program won't work alone, but will serve to initiate the intervention and help that is needed. Parents and family members are the primary sources of assistance and care for children in need.

The Texas Child Fatality Review Team's State Committee is a multidisciplinary, multi-agency group mandated by state law. It oversees and assists the work of local review teams in Texas, and works to develop a statewide understanding of the scope and magnitude of childhood mortality. Statewide, 41 established teams serve 139 counties. Dr. Parra and Alice Gong, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the UTHSC, are members of the Bexar County team.

For more information or to register for the Texas Child Fatality Review Team Network Meeting, go to Registration is free.

Contact: Natalie Gutierrez or Will Sansom