Preventing Teen Suicide07/12/2022 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
At Eugene Pediatrics, we see young people in our clinic daily who are suffering from severe anxiety and depression. The causes of their distress vary, but the pandemic has clearly exacerbated an already bad situation. At the same time, mental health services have become increasingly difficult to access due to a shortage of therapists and child psychiatrists. Our emergency departments have become boarding facilities for children waiting for inpatient psychiatric hospital beds.
What can parents do?
With a lack of mental health resources, it’s more important than ever for parents to dial in to their kids’ moods and behaviors.
- Talk with your child every day. Ask open-ended questions to show you are listening and don’t judge.
- Help your child stick to familiar routines that they can count on, including time with family and friends.
- Aim for an hour of physical activity daily. Try engaging in activities you can do as a family.
- Encourage your kid to spend time outside. Being present in green spaces significantly reduces stress hormones and boosts endorphin levels.
- Limit your child’s (and your own) screen time. Studies show the number of hours per day on social media directly correlates to anxiety and depression.
- Explore opportunities to practice positivity. Activities that foster gratitude and mindfulness, such as creating a vision board or journaling about things they are looking forward to, can help kids get out of their own heads and concentrate on the good things in their lives.
Don’t hesitate, seek help
If you are worried about your child’s mental stability, seek help. Remove all weapons from your home and lock up prescription and over-the-counter medications. Contact your child’s medical provider and encourage your teen or adolescent to talk openly with them.
The new three-digit dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 988. Compassionate, accessible care and support is available for anyone of any age experiencing mental health-related distress. People can also dial or text 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
When it comes to suicide prevention, be alert, be aware and be proactive. Our kids need our attention and support now more than ever.