CDC report: Suicide rate among teen girls at all-time high

Christie Ileto Image
Friday, August 4, 2017
CDC report: Teen girl suicide rate at all-time high
Watch the report from Christie Ileto on Action News at 11 on Aug. 3, 2017.

WEST PHILADELPHIA -- A startling report says suicides among teenage girls have spiked to an all-time high.

The CDC data shows the suicide rate doubled between 2007 and 2015 for girls between the ages of 15 and 19, and it tripled between girls aged 12 to 14.

The government's been tracking these numbers since 1975.

"To deal with those suicidal thoughts, I started cutting and burning."

Teased for being Muslim, Za'Kiyyah Abdullah Whitfield admits she spent years letting her bullies feed her inner demons of anxiety and depression.

We asked Za'Kiyyah, what did that type of self-mutilation do for her?

"It made me feel like I could take the pressure head on, and I could just come home and do that later. So, it felt like my comfort zone," she said.

The 17-year-old's battle with suicide highlights the CDC's report on suicide among teen girls.

Shelley Leaphart-Williams is with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who says adults should not turn a blind eye to a cry for help.

What are the warning signs?

"If they're talking about death, dying, depression, anxiety," Leaphart-Williams said. "Ask the hard question. Ask your child, 'Are you struggling? Do you feel like life would be better without you? Do you have thoughts of suicide?'"

We asked Za'Kiyyah, at what point did she realize what she was doing wasn't normal.

"When I tried to kill myself three times. I realized that this was not OK, this is not normal. I need help," she said.

The West Philadelphia teen is now homeschooled and even started a foundation where she speaks at area schools, helping young girls overcome the same suicidal thoughts that once haunted her.

"Don't feel like you're alone. I felt like I was alone and I overcame it with my mom's help. If you can't get it from a parent, get it from a teacher. If you can't get it from a teacher, find somebody who will help you. There are people that are out there who will listen to you, I will listen to you," she said.

Za'Kiyyah says the scars on her arms are now a reminder that she will never allow herself to go back to that dark place.

For information on suicide prevention programs, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

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