How to Combat the Rising Suicide Rate
Approximately 44 million children ages 3 to 17 are diagnosed with anxiety, while 1.9 million children and teens are diagnosed with depression (CDC). Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens between 15 and 24 years old.
Being a teen can be hard. With all the changes occurring in their bodies and brains, it can be difficult for them to appropriately process those changes and adjust emotions and behaviors accordingly. Throw in all that Covid brings and mental health can begin to rapidly disintegrate.
Dr. Teralyn Sell, Psychotherapist, and Brain Health Expert emphasize the importance of addressing youth and teen depression, now more than ever. Currently, the rates of teenagers with depression and depressive symptoms are on the rise. Depression has also been heralded as the leading cause of disability within the next 10 years. With the rising, mental health issues in our teens also comes a rise in suicidality. If we don’t expand our thinking about mental health issues as well as incorporating more ways to help improve the mental health of our teenagers we are quite likely facing the next pandemic.
Our top 3 ways that we can combat depression, anxiety, and suicide in youth and teens:
Tip #1: Fuel the brain and body
It is no secret that today’s youth and teens typically have a suboptimal diet. Also, food is rather optional to the American teen, replacing it with caffeinated beverages and treats. Assisting them in selecting and eating nutrient-dense, protein-filled foods fuels their neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine) and stabilizes their blood sugar. When blood sugar is stable, moods are more steady. One easy way to do this is to start with eating protein every 3 hours. Working on never skipping meals, including teens in grocery shopping and even cooking can be beneficial.
Tip #2: Listen without judging
As with most people, those who are struggling with mood don’t necessarily want a solution, they want a good listening ear and validation for what they are experiencing. Instead of saying ‘you shouldn’t feel that way’ or ‘Don’t feel that way’ instead say something like, “it must be really tough for you right now, tell me about that” or “yes, I hear you say_____ and I need some direction in helping you feel better”.
Tip #3: Seek help even if you are scared about what that may mean
Watch for some clear warning signs that your child or teen needs extra support. If they come out to ask for it, don’t hesitate in making a call to a therapist or school counselor. If they are shutting down at home, ask them if they would like to see someone that could help. If their behavior suddenly changes and they are more irritable or angry, if their behavior is self-injurious or they express thoughts of ending their lives, it might be time to seek outside help. One of the most important things to remember is that once someone who is suicidal decides to end their life, their behavior may become extremely calm. They might even say things like, ‘don’t worry about me I know what to do’ or things of that nature. Not all suicidal behavior will be blatant so watch for both types of expression, latent and blatant.
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