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Stopping the Stigma Around Youth Suicide

Lehigh Valley Health Network hosts event aimed at bringing awareness to youth suicide

Stopping the stigma around youth suicide.

From the outside, 16-year-old Louisiana high-school student Emma Benoit led a charmed life. She was a varsity cheerleader, well-liked and had a supportive family. But, while she was smiling to friends and family, privately she was fighting severe depression and anxiety.

In 2017, the summer before her senior year, Benoit attempted to take her life. While she survived, her attempt resulted in a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed. Since then, she has made it her mission to help others and shares her story in the documentary “My Ascension,” which is shown at high schools and community events throughout the country.

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) recently showed the film as part of an event aimed at preventing youth suicide.

“Suicide is a silent epidemic, and my hope is that events like tonight can help bring awareness and help others who may be struggling,” says Edward Norris, MD, Chair, LVHN Department of Psychiatry.

Startling statistics

Benoit’s story was a familiar one for Macungie resident Nancy Saloman. Her 13-year-old son Craig was a wrestler, a good student and involved in theater. He and his twin brother, Carter, were close and well-liked among their peers. In December 2020, Craig took his life.

“Craig had impossibly high standards for himself and never wanted to burden anyone. We were completely blindsided. He was suffering, and he didn’t talk to anyone or let us know,” Saloman says.

She says that Craig also had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which put him at an increased risk for suicide.

“Studies have linked that kids and teens with ADHD are at an increased risk for suicide. Impulsivity, which is a symptom of ADHD, can result in them engaging in risky or dangerous behaviors. They may spend less time weighing the consequences of their actions,” Dr. Norris says.

Did you know?

10% of high school students attempted suicide once or more in the last year
10-24-year-olds account for 15% of all suicides
Boys are four times more likely to die by suicide than girls
Over 100 people are affected by one suicide

Statistics surrounding youth suicide are startling. It is the second leading cause of death among young people under 25, and nearly 2.5 million young people attempt suicide each year. However, it’s a topic that many parents and teens struggle to talk about.

“Open and honest communication is key to preventing suicide. It’s not a topic that most parents want to even think about, but it’s an important one that we should all be talking about with our children,” Norris says.

Moving forward

Since Craig’s death, the Saloman family has done their best to honor his memory by advocating for more awareness surrounding youth suicide. Carter started a chapter of the club Aevidum, which is Latin for “I’ve got your back,” at Emmaus High School, and the family created a scholarship in Craig’s name.

Saloman says she wishes she had known more about the dangers of youth suicide and is doing what she can to educate others. “Youth suicide isn’t a topic I ever thought about. It was too sad, our family wasn’t broken, our kids had their act together. It’s the kids you don’t think you have to worry about that you need to talk to,” she says.

Dr. Norris says it’s important for adults to have open and honest conversation with children so they can express their thoughts and feelings, especially when it comes to mental health and suicide.

“As a parent, the most important thing you can do is make sure your child is comfortable talking to you and reassuring them that you love them and will support them if they make mistakes,” Dr. Norris says.

If you are interested in hosting a screening of “My Ascension,” contact Ashley Felker, behavioral health specialist with LVHN, at

Psychiatry (Behavioral Health)

Your behavioral health is just as important to your overall well-being as your physical health. Mental conditions are real and can be life-threatening, but they're also common and very treatable. For more than 50 years, Lehigh Valley Health Network has been caring for people who need behavioral health treatment, whether it’s for counseling during a stressful time in your life or for a lifelong condition that requires medication, and anything in between.

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In this Article



  • Psychiatry (Behavioral Health)
  • Adult Psychiatry
  • Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry (Psychosomatic Medicine)

Area of focus i

  • Consultation Liaison Psychiatry
  • Adult Psychiatry

LVPG Cliniciani