Maine teenagers are killing themselves at a higher rate than teens in any other state in New England, according to a three-part series published this week in the Portland Press-Herald. The numbers for 15- to 19-year-olds ending their lives are particularly alarming. From 1999 to 2001, Maine’s rate for that age group was 72 percent higher than New England’s. It was nearly 49 percent higher than the national rate for those ages, according to Maine statistics.
Rates have not dropped despite creation of the statewide suicide prevention program seven years ago to raise awareness through education. Now there is interest in launching a screening program at Maine schools to evaluate students for mental illness. Staffers at some schools also are being trained as gatekeepers, to recognize symptoms of serious depression in students. Meanwhile, experts search for answers to Maine’s high rates for youth suicides. There are several theories, including a lack of education and services.