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Pandemic causes uptick in suicide rate among teens

Sept. 17, 2020

The stress, fear and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on the emotional well-being of our teens. A CDC survey in June 2020 found that one in four teenagers has had suicidal thoughts.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. None of us wants to believe that our keiki are at risk for suicide. But during this tumultuous time, staying alert to warning signs and talking openly with kids about their feelings are more important than ever.

Look for the signs
Keep your mind, eyes, ears and heart open to the possibility that thoughts of suicide may be present in your keiki. It’s normal for teens to feel sad during this time – crying sometimes because they miss their friends or because sports and social events have been cancelled. However, your teen may benefit from extra support if they have:

  • Changes in mood such as irritability, increased anxiety or fear, feelings of hopelessness or rage, and frequent conflicts with friends and family.
  • Changes in social behavior. If your outgoing teen seems more withdrawn and stops texting and video chatting with friends while stuck at home, this may be cause for concern.
  • A lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
  • A difficult time falling or staying asleep, or sleeping all the time
  • Changes in weight or eating patterns, including a change in appetite or eating all the time.
  • Problems with memory, thinking, or concentration.
  • Changes in appearance, such as lack of basic personal hygiene (within reason, since many are doing slightly less grooming during this time at home.)
  • An increase in risky or reckless behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol.
  • Thinking or talking about death or suicide and giving away prized possessions.

How to help a suicidal teen
Following are some recommendations for helping suicidal teens from Mental Health America, a national leader in mental health support, recovery and advocacy:

  • Remain calm.  Our kids look to the adults in their lives to help them understand a crisis situation. It’s important for you to practice self-care, model calm behaviors, and temper your own reactions so as not to exacerbate an already stressful situation.
  • Offer help and listen. Encourage teens to talk about their feelings. Listen nonjudgmentally, don’t lecture.  Normalize their emotions by letting them know that they’re not alone.
  • Trust your instincts. Remember, as a parent, you know your teen better than anybody else! If it seems that the situation may be serious, seek help. Break a confidence if necessary, in order to save a life.
  • Pay attention if your child talks about suicide. Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions. Safety-proof your home by removing or locking up all items that could be used for self-harm. These items include weapons, sharp objects and medications.
  • Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen’s life – family, friends, and counselors.

Crisis support
If you think your child may be suicidal, use the resources below to get free help –
24 hours a day, seven days a week:




Teenagers Need Extra Emotional Support During COVID-19
Psychology Today

Mental Health During COVID-19: Signs Your Teen May Need More Support

Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents & Educators
National Association of School Psychologists

Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide
National Association of School Psychologists

Rethinking Youth Suicide Prevention During COVID

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