Increase in Youth Suicide Prevention Needed Amid Pandemic

Increase in Youth Suicide Prevention Needed Amid Pandemic (Photo: Dan Meyers via Unsplash)

Bullying and depression are common reasons why some teens think about suicide. Sometimes the thoughts may come around the time of the birthday of a loved one lost, the holiday season or climate change. Now, factor in the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers of suicide attempts among children and young adults increased amid the pandemic. 

Trips to the emergency room rose 22% because of potential suicides by kids aged 12 to 17 during the summer of 2020 compared to the same period the prior year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“People recognize that suicide is a real problem but go on with their lives,” said Justus Wilhoit, Kenosha, Wisconsin senior who attends Indian Trail High School.

“I think what Suicide Prevention Week represents is trying to find the root of the problem and really taking a deeper look into why people are feeling the way they feel.”

Jennifer Roman, another Kenosha senior who attends Bradford High School, stressed it’s everyone’s responsibility to spread awareness and help prevent attempts of those struggling.

She also suggested factors that may contribute to suicide rates not slowing now include discrimination remaining common for young people and a fearfulness of being looked at as weak. 

Another stressor  is climate change. 

Roman said overthinking and worrying about the future state of our Earth can lead to depression or suicidal thinking. It scares her knowing the Earth might not be survivable for future generations. 

College campuses are not excluded from the recent uptick in mental health and suicide cases. 

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, two students were involved in suicide-related events over Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend. School officials recognize that the stress of the semester is compounded by the pandemic and cancelled classes Oct. 12 for a “Wellness Day,” encouraging students to “rest and check in with each other.” 

Similarly, at Dartmouth College, where four students took their own lives during the 2020-2021 school year, administrators have recognized the effect COVID-19 policies have had on students. 

Students at both schools cited the increased anxiety and depression from isolation requirements as contributing factors, and as a result, each school is looking at ways to mitigate the health guidelines without sacrificing student health. 

To help prevent rates from increasing, students agree that having people around and being able to confide in them is one of the most important ways to help prevent suicide. 

“We should also be more observant with people, and if we see something we’re worried about, we should try to do something about it and reach out ourselves to make sure they’re okay,” said Roman. “No one should be feeling hopeless to the point where they’re better off gone.”

“It could cause severe anxiety to the point where people fear for the future which could cause suicidal thoughts,” she said. “It is scary thinking about the future.”

Wilhoit added, “Do the things you love, take care of yourself, and focus on the people and things that bring you happiness. Our youth are our future, and we need them to be okay mentally.”

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