Suicide Prevention in Children – Risk Factors, Signs and Where to Get Help

I’m Dr. Jyotsna Ranga, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with CHI Health and Creighton University.

Child and adolescent psychiatrists in the United States are really concerned about rising suicide rates in children and adolescents. It is now the second leading cause of death in young people between the ages of 10 and 19. Now with the super-imposition of a global health crisis—the Covid-19 pandemic—we’re much more concerned about increased depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are leading to suicidal thinking and suicidal attempts.

Risk Factors for Suicide
Mental illness – depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder
Substance use – mental illness and substance use together exponentially increase the risk
Psychosocial stressors – adversity, exposure to trauma, domestic violence, neglect, peer rejection, bullying

Signs and Symptoms to Watch for in Children and Adolescents
Change in behavior – that can look like changes in appetite, sleep
Change in mood – they can get more irritable, more clingy or restless, more impulsive
Verbalizing thoughts of hopelessness, death and dying
Increase their use of substances
Increased involvement in social media and online platforms

All of the above factors need to be explored further when they are noticed in children and adolescents.

How We Can Help as a Community
Children and adolescents are involved in multiple systems of care. They are involved with their parents, first and foremost, the family, as well as schools, churches, youth groups, etc. The following are some ways that we can hold hands and move forward towards safeguarding our children and adolescents.

The community partnering with the child and parent and family to identify and explore mental health services for a child flagged as potentially having some risk factors
De-stigmatize the approach to mental health counseling
Partner with pediatricians in the community to screen and refer children to therapy as well as psychiatry

How to Seek Help
If You’re a Parent or a Teacher
If you’re a parent or a teacher of a young person, and you’re concerned about symptoms of depression and suicide risk, we can start with the school counselor or the pediatrician who can then move that referral forward to mental health counseling and psychiatry.

If You’re a Young Person
If you’re a young person and are reading this and feel like you cannot reach out to a parent or an adult and want to, yourself, make that call, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1- 800-273-8255.

Dr Ranga:

Source: Youtube