Mental health experts say suicide rates among children have skyrocketed in the last few years.
Mary Paschal is the primary care giver for her niece, Samia, who showed signs of suicidal thoughts when she was only 6 years old. “I didn’t know how to fix that. I didn’t know what to do.” Samia filled out a questionnaire at school which raised the red flags to call home. “I had no idea. I knew Samia had some behavioral issues from when she first came with me.”
With a traumatic early childhood in her rear view, Samia was angry at times and had trouble following rules. Where Mary saw a difficult kid, a school questionnaire saw something different which was a child crying for help. “You really have to get out of your mindset and get into their mindset,” Paschal said. She quickly learned advice from their therapist at the Buckeye Ranch.
Dr. Patricia Gentile says getting that advice quickly is the key. “If we can identify then we can treat. It’s a completely preventable cause of death.”
Dr. Gentile says suicide is the second leading cause of death in The US for 10 to 24-year old and social media is a major contributor.
“I’ve seen a number of studies of 10-14-year old’s which correlates suicide with use of social media, states Dr Gentile. “You add the pandemic where you’re isolated from everybody except for what you see. The only reality around your kids is what you are seeing on social media.
She says there are important signs parents can look for. “If they are withdrawing. If they are changing how they do things. Sleeping in too much. Not sleeping at all. If they are more agitated. If they express hopelessness.”
According to research, the black population is even more at risk as talks of police brutality and systemic racism is front and center and it’s important to talk about how you’re feeling in your homes.
Dr. Gentile says, “There has been a lot more anxiety and we really need to open up those lines of communication more too. They are more at risk of getting into acts of violence right now and suicidal behavior.”
Luckily, for Mary and Samia, they found help in time. “We’re talking. I give her the opportunity to come talk to me and tell me what she needs and what she wants,” Paschal said.
Mary said parenting is not one size fits all and you must find the right method for each child. In some cases, like Samias, treatment requires medication.
You can find help for your child’s mental health by reaching out to your child’s pediatrician
Here are organization that can help: