It comes as no surprise that kids and teens are facing a mental health crisis due to the pandemic. Their whole worlds – from schools to socializing has been turn upside down and flopped here and there for 18 months. Nothing is normal and nothing feels normal. Even kids that you would never expect to have depression or thoughts of suicide are suffering – and there is not enough counselors to be found. As kids (and maybe you) are struggling with depression and anxiety, there are things you need to do for your child now.
I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Kim Burgess, Ph.D., board-certified psychologist on this very topic.
It’s not our imagination, it is a crisis and the numbers are climbing. There was an increase in mental-health related ER visits for teens by 50% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2019! 50% more! If these struggles go unnoticed, this could be an increase in suicide
the way it was after the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Red flags or suicide warning signs in children or teenagers are:
- Changes in usual patterns such as trouble sleeping or eating, notable behavior changes, more risk-taking, and increased alcohol or drug use.
- Recently experienced a stressful life event, such as the loss of a loved one.
- Verbal expressions of hopelessness.
- Preoccupied with death and may actually talk about committing suicide.
- Reduces their usual socializing and doesn’t hang out with friends much anymore.
- Lastly, anyone who has attempted suicide before has a much greater risk of it happening again.
Symptoms require immediate help:
Any self-harm or threats to oneself or others safety-wise requires immediate help. Comments that they’re going to do something to hurt themselves should be taken very seriously. Any potentially lethal weapons should be inaccessible. If a child cannot get in with someone immediately, such as an urgent appointment with the primary care physician, then go to the nearest emergency room.
When a child/adolescent seems depressed, take them to a mental health professional or to the pediatrician so that they can refer your child to a specialist if needed. When you notice there’s sadness, moodiness, a high frustration level, or frequent anger outbursts, take your child to a healthcare provider for an assessment, referral, and recommendations. Intervening with an evaluation and course of therapy by a trusted specialist can make an enormous difference in their lives. Don’t wait!
Mental Health Resources
There is an increasing demand for mental health providers with the increase in those that need help. Take advantage of your school psychologist, if your school has one. Ask for a recommendation by your family doctor and start calling to find one accepting new patients. A good place to start locally is with Akron Children’s Hospital mental health services.
There are also options for at-home mental health programs like the BHIP® Programs (Biopsychological Health Intervention and Prevention) are a product of nearly 25 years of research, scientifically backed by previous and current evidence showing effectiveness. BHIP® provides parents, children, teens, and professionals with techniques, tips, tools, advice, and strategies through sessions, seminars, workshops, manuals, and books for kids 3 ½ – 16 years old. Check out the website for tips, videos, and more that may help your child as well.