Phoenix-area group working to curb rising teen suicide rates

Recognizing the warning signs, risks and behavior of teen suicide.

It was a tragedy that shocked and devastated the close-knit community at Independence High School in Glendale.

Two 15-year-old girls were killed in a murder-suicide that unfolded on the school's camps in February of 2016.

“I think that's what parents need to hear, is that it could be anybody. It could be their child or their child's friend,” said Gina Godbehere, an attorney assigned to the northwest division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

Godbehere responded to the school the day of the shooting.

An investigation by Glendale police later revealed sophomore Dorothy Dutiel shot fellow student May Kieu before turning the gun on herself.

The two had reportedly been in a romantic relationship.

The tragedy left many including Godbehere wondering if something could have been done to prevent it or whether there were warning signs that were missed.

“There were some signs that were missed on social media that maybe could have helped, and also with their friends," Godbehere said.

“People knew something was wrong, that one of the individuals said she was being bullied but they didn't bring it to the attention of their parents or the school or other friends,” she said.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate for girls ages 15 to 19 doubled from 2007 to 2015.

For boys of the same age, the rate increased by 30 percent.

“These statistics are higher than they've ever been and you have to question whether social media comes into play because with cyberbullying you can't escape a bully anymore,” Godbehere told 12 News.

The tragedy at Independence High is what motivated Godbehere and others to start the student-led program Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life.

“As a society, we tell people to mind their own business, don’t be a tattletale,” Godbehere said. "So we have to change that mind set.”

It's a new way of thinking to combat the growing threat of teen suicide.

“We need people to communicate a possible concern and the first person to know that is going to be their friend,” she said. “So, if we can prevent one tragedy, stop one victim, then we have succeeded.”

The program also involves local police, schools and parents with the goal of raising awareness about the program and the issues it takes on.

The next conference is in January for more information, go to the organization's website.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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