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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – Why Are Young #Americans Killing Themselves?

#Suicide is now their second-leading cause of death

Richard A. Friedman

By Richard A. Friedman

#Teenagers and young adults in the United States are being ravaged by a #mentalhealthcrisis — and we are doing nothing about it. As of 2017, statistics show that an alarming number of them are suffering from #depression and dying by #suicide. In fact, #suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people, surpassed only by accidents.

After declining for nearly two decades, the #suicide rate among Americans ages 10 to 24 jumped 56 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to data from the #CentersforDiseaseControlandPrevention. And for the first time the gender gap in #suicide has narrowed: Though the numbers of suicides are greater in males, the rates of #suicide for #female youths increased by 12.7 percent each year, compared with 7.1 percent for #male youths.

At the same time, the rate of #teen #depression shot up 63 percent, an alarming but not surprising trend given the link between #suicide and #depression: In 2017, 13 percent of teens reported at least one episode of #depression in the past year, compared with 8 percent of teens in 2007, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

How is it possible that so many of our young people are suffering from #depression and killing themselves when we know perfectly well how to treat this illness? If thousands of #teens were dying from a new infectious disease or a heart ailment, there would be a public outcry and a national call to action.

While young people are generally physically healthy, they are psychiatrically vulnerable. Three-quarters of all the #mentalillness that we see in adults has already occurred by age 25. Our collective failure to act in the face of this epidemic is all the more puzzling since we are living at a time when people are generally more accepting of #mentalillness and #stigma is on the wane.

You’d think it would be no big deal to see your family doctor or a therapist and get your #depression treated like any other medical problem. But the data suggest otherwise: Only 45 percent of #teenage #girls who had an episode of #depression in 2019 received any treatment, and just 33 percent of teenage boys with #depression did. In contrast, two-thirds of adults with a recent episode of #depression received treatment.

What explains the epidemic of #teen #depression and #suicide? There are lots of theories but few definitive answers.

Some researchers emphasize the potential role of #socialmedia exposure and use of smartphones. There is some evidence that #girls, who have shown greater rates of increase in #depression than #boys, experience more cyberbullying because of their greater use of mobile phones and texting. But most studies of digital technology and #mentalhealth are correlational and can’t prove causation.

Drugs and alcohol are always a popular culprit, but in this case they are an unlikely explanation, as the studies cited above controlled for drug use. In addition, there is no evidence of a significant increase in the use of drugs or alcohol in young people during the study period.

It is legitimate (though controversial) to ask whether the Food and Drug Administration’s “black box” warning for antidepressants back in 2004 — which said the drugs could cause suicidal thoughts and actions in some #children and #teenagers — discouraged the use of these drugs and unwittingly helped fuel the rise in #teen #depression. Within two years of the F.D.A. advisory, antidepressant use dropped by 31 percent in teens and 24 percent in young adults. Although antidepressant use recovered somewhat after 2008, it has remained below levels that would have been expected based on prescribing patterns before the warnings appeared.

The good news is that we don’t have to wait for all the answers to know what to do. We know that various psychotherapies and medication are highly effective in treating #depression. We just need to do a better job of identifying, reaching out to and providing resources for at-risk youths.

To start, we need a major public campaign to educate parents and teachers to recognize #depression in young people and to learn about the warning signs of #suicide — like a sudden change in behavior, talking or writing about #suicide, and giving away prized possessions. We should have universal screening of #teenagers at school, with parental consent, to identify those who are suffering from #depression and who are at risk of #suicide. And we have to provide adequate funding and resources to match the #mentalhealth needs of our young people.

Every day, 16 young people die from suicide. What are we waiting for?

Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels.com

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