PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - It's an issue that we wish we didn't have to talk about, but sadly, we do – teens and suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the rate of suicide for girls aged 15 to 19 years has doubled since 2007.
While that figure climbed nearly a third for boys, they were already at higher risk.
Za'Kiyyah Whitfield was in elementary school when she first tried to take her life. She was in a new school, didn't talk very much and was picked on by the other students. They called her names and smacked her books out of her hands.
Sadly, the bullying continued through junior high school.
Za'Kiyyah tried taking her life two more times but failed, thankfully. She ended up being home-schooled, is now a singer-songwriter and aspiring actress who started an organization to help teens that are being bullied. It's called Music Empowering Minds Anti Bullying, or "The M.E.M.A Movement."
Now 17, Za'Kiyyah joined "Good Day Philadelphia" Thursday morning along with her mother, Natasha Mayfield.
More Online: SimplyZa.com
Asked why she thinks the suicide rate is rising, Za'Kiyyah said, "Well, I think it is going up because we're very insecure about ourselves. We always second guess things. We always, you know, try to, you know, make ourselves comfortable by doing other trends, or following everybody else."
Joining the mother and daughter in our studio was Dr. Daniel Taylor, D.O., associate professor at Drexel University College of Medicine and director of community pediatrics and child advocacy at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
Taylor wrote an article recently asking that we not let the conversation about teens and suicide fade.
"There is no one answer why it is going up," Taylor said. "Za'Kiyyah said one thing, social media, kind of lower self esteem, trying to be like everybody else. This FOMO – 'fear of missing out,' teens have all the time. The economic downturn that occurred still affecting so many families, so much financial stress, in the households and everything. And also, unfortunately, there is a lot more, more effective ways, with the increase in opioid addiction and stronger medications, that that can take people's lives, as well. Some of the ways to … get it early on is if your child's kind of decreasing in their grades, or being more isolated, sitting in their room more than usual, being more irritable…"
Taylor, who is a father of four himself, said it has to start early. If your child is starting to isolate themselves, he said, tell them, "You have to come out," that you're the parent.
"Kids want structure. They want parents to take charge. And unfortunately, I'm as guilty as anybody else, some parents are afraid," he said.
You can hear more from Za'Kiyyah, her mom and the doctor in the video clip above.
Need Help? Know Someone Who Does? Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both are free and confidential.