September was National Suicide Prevention month, with Thursday the 10th being World Suicide Prevention Day. My hope is that this article is not the first time you are hearing of this as the news and social media have done a good job at shedding light on this serious mental health crisis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 in 2018. Moreover the Washington Post cited that from 2007 to 2017, the number of suicides among people ages 10 to 24 increased 56 percent. This data is alarming to say the least. Not only is it worrisome that suicide is on the rise among our youth, but it is also scary that experts do not know why this is happening. Some theories point to lack of sleep, bullying, social media, and drugs, but the problem is too complex to name just one cause.
The best way to combat this mental health crisis is to be informed. Knowing the signs of a teen in crisis is critical. Stanford Children’s Health lists these warning signs: Noticeable changes in eating or sleeping habits, unexplained or unusually severe, violent, or rebellious behavior, withdrawal from family or friends, sexual promiscuity, truancy, and vandalism, drastic personality change, agitation, restlessness, distress, or panicky behavior, talking or writing about committing suicide, even jokingly, giving away prized possessions, and/or doing worse in school.
If you notice any of the warning signs listed above here is what you can do:
If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, call the 24-hour, toll-free, confidential, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Our kiddos are headed back to school! Although our current environment can be cause for concern, our children will benefit greatly from getting to see their friends and teachers again. It is miraculous what a sense of loving community can provide a child in need.
The CDC recently published an article that supported the need for children to return to school this Fall. It shed light on the significant short-and long term social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement impacts on students if schools remain closed. The article also highlighted the disproportionate harm caused to low-income and minority children and those living with disabilities, because these populations typically do not have access to private instruction and the care they need. Many of these children depend on the school system to provide food, special education services, counseling, and after-school programs. Furthermore, school can provide a sense of safety and community for children that need it most which has been proven to lower levels of depression, thoughts about suicide, social anxiety, and sexual activity, as well as higher levels of self-esteem and more adaptive use of free time.
I want to take a moment to thank our REACH One mentor volunteers who dedicate their time to helping children feel safe and connected to a caring adult. Our staff knows that it has not been easy to navigate your relationships through this pandemic, but know you are truly making a difference and potentially saving a child’s life.
I encourage anyone who wants to know more about the benefits of children returning to school to read the CDC’s article titled “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall”. Have a wonderful end to summer and stay safe!