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Most teenagers have experienced some degree of stress during this pandemic — whether it’s missing friends, or more serious stressors like a parent losing a job, someone getting sick or an unstable home life.
Such stressors can make teens more vulnerable to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Pre-COVID-19, suicide was already a leading cause of death among teenagers in the U.S. Mental health experts are concerned that suicide rates will increase during the pandemic.
While more data is needed, in a June survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young adults reported having worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use and elevated suicidal ideation.
Suicide does not discriminate and anyone can be at risk. Some factors that increase risk include: a current mental health disorder or substance use disorder (for the teen or a parent), family history of suicide, violence (including physical or sexual abuse), bullying and having firearms in the home.
The risk increases during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, when teens may be more likely to experience feelings of social and emotional isolation.
Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress and should not be ignored. Many of the warning signs of suicide are also symptoms of depression. Be on the lookout for:
Parents know their kids better than anyone else. Pay attention to changes in behavior and trust your gut. If anything seems off, don’t wait. Seek help immediately.
How can parents protect their teens?
One predictor of how well teens do after a large-scale event, like a pandemic, is how well their parents are doing. It’s okay for your teen to see you stressed or worried. Everyone is. What’s important is for them to see you cope with it in healthy ways.
A common experience and emotion of teenagers is that life is difficult and that it is never going to get better. Unfortunately, teens often fail to reach out and share with others. When a teen is struggling, connection and communication is crucial.
Here are 10 steps parents can take to protect their teen:
In addition to parental support, feeling connected to others and support from the community can help protect against suicidal thoughts and behaviors in teens. Having a strong relationship with a therapist is a protective factor as well.
Both in-person and virtual counseling is available, and can help teens struggling with suicidal thoughts and behavior, particularly during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
Additional supportive resources:
When you visit us in-person, you will find consistent safety measures in place. Learn more about our Safety Commitment.
For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please checkEEHealth.org/coronavirus.
Never a reason: talking with your teen about depression
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