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As teen suicide spikes, school policies may be making things worse

Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- For her 17th birthday, Jeramie Naya Vives Osorio's family showered her with gifts: a dozen pink roses, a stack of Beard Papa's cream puffs, a Strawberry Sweet cake from the Korean bakery Tous les Jours and a small silver necklace from Tiffany.

Michelle Vives knew her middle daughter — Jer to her friends, Mia to her family — would never wear the necklace. But she wanted Mia to have it all the same.

"She loves Tiffany, so every birthday I get her something," Vives said. "This year I bought her the infinity one" — a silver charm on a fine cable chain.

The Tiffany necklace lies with Mia's ashes in a rose quartz urn in their Alhambra home. Insurance won't pay for a burial, so her ashes wait in the dining room while her family saves for a niche at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

"I buy her little things all the time," her mother said. "I know you're not supposed to have a favorite, but everyone knew she was mine."

Mia died in March — eight weeks shy of her 17th birthday and at the mathematical epicenter of a terrifying new statistic.


This year, for the first time, the median age for teen suicide in Los Angeles County has dropped to 16 — the youngest ever.


Suicide has been a leading cause of death for young people for at least the last half-century.

But around the time Mia was born, those deaths began to surge, according to national data. Experts have struggled to explain why: Theories include Instagram and precocious puberty, easier access to guns, more stringent rules for prescribing antidepressants and increased use of hormonal contraceptives.


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