Disclaimer: The following article details an account of a recent attempted suicide involving a 19-year-old man and a shotgun.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – A second incident in less than a week has organizations looking toward what they can do to help the area’s youth with suicide prevention.
Just two days after an 18-year-old man apparently hung himself, a 19-year-old man reportedly was injured by a self-inflicted gunshot. A memorial picture of the deceased 18-year-old was posted on the 19-year-old’s Facebook page, Saturday.
The Safford Unified School District Crisis Response Team is set up to assess the needs of those in despair and meets with students during vulnerable moments. Director of Instructional Services A.J. Taylor also heads up the response team. He described the issue of teen suicide as being a community issue and that the schools work together with other local agencies and the rest of the community to help prevent such tragedies.
“(We) try to continue to provide messages of hope to kids and options,” Taylor said. “We continue to offer options in school to build a good and better life and messages of hope, those types of things.”
Authorities were dispatched to a Safford residence Monday, Sept. 4 at about 9:50 p.m. after a man apparently shot himself with a shotgun while inside his car, which was parked outside of his girlfriend’s parent’s home.
The incident occurred after the victim had a disagreement with his girlfriend, and she was present in the car when the shotgun went off. She allegedly told police that she had pushed the weapon away from the victim once but he put it back and pulled the trigger before she could push it away again.
The girlfriend’s father was informed of the act by one of his daughter’s friends and quickly came to the victim’s aid, applying pressure to the wound until he was relieved by paramedics.
The victim was taken to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center and was then transferred to Banner-University Medical Center (UMC), according to the police report. A GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/4ebs6o8) lists the victim as being in stable condition at the hospital, and a representative of UMC told Gila Valley Central the patient was in serious condition.
While the Safford Crisis Team does do some prevention activities, it mainly serves as a coping mechanism and looks to steer those in need to other local agencies when appropriate.
“It’s one of those things we hope we never have to use but we have it in place in case a crisis does happen,” Taylor said.
Cenpatico Integrated Care is the Regional Behavioral Health Authority for southern Arizona. The organization is aiming to help teens and others in crisis with suicidal tendencies due to bullying or other aspects to realize that their pain can be overcome and that suicide is a permanent and deadly wrong answer to a temporary problem.
Those in need can reach a representative at 1-866-495-6735 to speak with callers about their fears and concerns and to provide assistance with whatever crisis situation. The service is available to anybody in the community at no cost, regardless of insurance or other factors.
In December 2016, two Safford High School juniors each died within a week by suicide. Safford’s Crisis Team was actually utilized three times that week to help the students cope with the situation. The team has a couple goals when such incidents occur.
“The first one is to try to assess and provide some help on a basic level,” Taylor said. “We try and provide a room where kids can talk with some people if they need to talk. If it goes beyond that we refer that out. Our other goal, obviously, is to get educational services back to normal as soon as we can because that’s on top of our list, educating kids.”
For those in need to speak with a counselor or just someone to listen, they can text “TEEN” to 839863 to speak with someone. During school hours the number is run by counselors who oversee teens who answer the calls.
Other help numbers include the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, the Veterans Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
A teen suicide hotline, 800-248-8336 (TEEN) is also available for students to use in case of a crisis.