KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — New data shows an 11% increase in Tennessee's suicide rate since 2015. The report from the Tennessee Department of Health assessed data up to 2019.
The report said that during 2019, around 1,220 Tennesseans died by suicide. A concerning rise has come from younger girls who died by suicide.
"It's an epidemic and this needs immediate attention," said Monica Gouffon. She lost her daughter, Sasha, to suicide.
Monday marked two years since the last time she saw her daughter. Sasha was getting ready to head back to Appalachian State from her Winter break, she said.
"I walked her out to the parking lot and hugged her and that was the last time I saw her," Gouffon said. "Never in a million years did I think that would be the last time."
Suicide among young people is a reality, and Gouffon said it is especially prevalent in East Tennesse.
"This is not something going away anytime soon," she said.
New state data shows that the suicide rate for people between 10 years old and 24 years old rose 15 percent. For girls in that group, the rate increased by 51 percent.
"If you're a parent of a teenage boy or girl in that age group, please pay attention," Gouffon said. "They need a lot of unconditional love right now, patience."
She said that simply paying attention to children's lives can help save them, especially now as they continue to adjust to learning remotely and social distancing.
She's also urging parents to start conversations with their kids and check in with their children and let them know there's hope.
"If my story can help one person, or if one parent says, 'gosh you know what I do need to talk to my daughter or son,' it helps. It helps me and all the other moms know we're not going through this for nothing," she said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.