COVID-19 Information Center: get the latest on vaccines, testing, screening, visitor policy and post-COVID support >>
This blog was originally posted in 2020. Some information may be out of date. For the latest updates on vaccines, testing, screening, visitor policy and post-COVID support, visit EEHealth.org/coronavirus.
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.
During 2020, mental health-related emergency department (ED) visits among adolescents age 12-17 increased 31% compared to during 2019, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From February to March 2021, suspected suicide attempt ED visits were over 50% higher among girls aged 12-17 than during the same period in 2019; among boys aged 12-17, suspected suicide attempt ED visits increased 3.7%.
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:
For the latest COVID-19 information, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.
Never a reason: talking with your teen about depression
If you have reached this screen, your current device or browser is unable to access the full Edward-Elmhurst Health Web site.
To see the full site, please upgrade your browser to the most recent version of Safari, Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. If you cannot upgrade your browser, you can remain on this site.