KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Nathan and Sylvia Harrell and BJ Thomas know the pain of losing a child to suicide all too well.
Chad Harrell was a happy go lucky 17-year-old heading into his senior year at Blue Valley North High School.
Regan Johnson was a 16-year-old at Paola High School, she loved her friends and she loved to race 4-wheelers.
Both of the young lives ended over what their parents are convinced was a snap, impulsive decision.
“There was not a single person who knew Reagan was struggling that day, not one, she didn't text anyone she didn't call anyone,” BJ Thomas, who lost her child to suicide, said.
Chad was upset, though it was for a very routine teenage reason. His parents told him he couldn’t go to a party and took his phone. He’d spent the evening in his room. His mom and dad both went up to talk to him before bed.
“I told him I loved him. He wasn't in a really good mood, so I didn't get anything back and that's the last time I spoke to him,” Nathan Harrell, who is Chad’s father, said.
“I just decided I would go check on him because it wasn't unusual for him to still be up in his room or whatever just to make sure he was calmed down and I found him,” Sylvia Harrell, who is Chad’s mother, said.
A recent report showed the number of young children thinking about or attempting suicide has doubled nationwide.
Dr Shayla Sullivant is a child psychiatrist at Children’s Mercy and said they’re seeing those doubled rates in the metro as well. The hospital now routinely screens all children for suicidal risk beginning at age 12.
Doctors and nurses use a standardized screening test that helps identify children who are struggling.
“It really helps you identify kids that feel like they're a burden. Kids that have thoughts about wishing they weren't alive. Kids that have actually attempted suicide, those are some of the things we know that are predictive of someone who has elevated risk and may actually try to end their lives,” Dr Sullivant said.
Dr Sullivant said early intervention works and though Chad’s parents said he always seemed carefree and happy, they said after he passed away, they did find a diary he had written in middle school that may have provided a clue that he was struggling.
“He had a bunch of things about the girl he liked and the last line in there was, ‘and no more thoughts of suicide,’ in seventh grade,” Syliva said.
The teens parents all said its time for us to start talking about it openly, to let kids know they may feel desperate from time to time but that there is help and to ask for it.
“We can't sweep it under the rug anymore because clearly whatever we've done in the past has not worked if the epidemic is escalating and I believe that it is. We’ve got to do something about it,” Nathan said.