The pandemic has brought on a perfect storm of difficult circumstances for children. Quarantining, although great for physical health, can be not-so-great for mental health. E-learning, although better than missing school altogether, puts children in front of screens for even more of their day. Masks and social distancing, although effective at preventing Covid-19, stifles our communication and puts us further away from our supports. Also, many children have not been allowed to socialize outside of school since the pandemic started. Although this is likely protective, it also takes a stab at our children's mental health. As therapists, we are seeing record numbers of children, even young children, who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Suicide rates are higher than they have been for more than 50 years, so it is important that we are able to recognize the signs. Children who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, have a genetic predisposition to depression or anxiety, and/or display the following symptoms may be at higher risk.
What you can do as parents:
Be aware. Know the signs and risk factors of depression and suicide.
Get your child help. If you think your child may be struggling with anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts get them into treatment. If they are presently reporting suicidal thoughts, take your child to your nearest emergency room to be evaluated. The ER can hospitalize them if needed which will include intensive individual, group, and family therapy as well as medication management. They will also likely set your child up with therapy and medication management appointments post-discharge.
If you keep weapons in your home, make sure your child does not have access to them. (locked safe or storing them elsewhere). It may also be a good idea to lock up medications and sharps likes knives and razors.
Talk to your child about suicide. Spend time with your child. Play with your child.
Tell other people in your child's life such as teachers, babysitters, and friend's parents. Suicidal thoughts are not shameful, and it is important that people in your child's life know how to help and monitor your child.
If you think your child may be struggling, don't wait! Get help!
-Shannon Knight, LCSW, RPT-S, ACAS, CCTP