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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – Experts Express Concerns Over #MentalHealth Of Some #Kids In The #Pandemic

man in white crew neck t shirt sitting with his kids
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A year into the #pandemic, emergency rooms nationwide are seeing a rise in kids experiencing #mentalhealthcrises. Educators and #doctors are concerned that many of those kids are turning to #suicide.

#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


A year into this #pandemic, it’s clear that the disease has led to more than a physical health crisis and an economic crisis. It’s also led to a #mentalhealthcrisis, especially for young people. A recent #CDC report shows that hospital emergency departments are seeing a greater proportion of #children and #adolescents with #mentalhealthproblems. And educators and child #psychiatrists are concerned that more kids in emotional crises are considering #suicide. NPR’s Rhitu Chatterjee reports.

RHITU CHATTERJEE, BYLINE: To understand why educators are concerned, consider Nevada’s Clark County #School District. It’s had 19 #students die from #suicide since last March. One of those #students was a senior at Shadow Ridge High School on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Colleen Neely was his counselor.

COLLEEN NEELY: He had a huge smile that would just light up his whole face, and he flashed that almost daily. And it just made my day.

CHATTERJEE: She says he was shy but smart and polite, and he’d stop by her office every day to check in. Neely says he’d gone through a period of #homelessness, but he’d been doing really well lately.

NEELY: He was passing all of his classes, going to earn the highest-level diploma that we offer at our #school. So he was in a really good place, you know, and this was leading right up to us being shut down.

CHATTERJEE: Then a couple of months after they switched to online classes, her boss called her to give her the news. Neely was devastated.

NEELY: I had just sent him an email telling him how proud I was of him and that he was almost there and that the next phase of his life was going to start.

CHATTERJEE: It’s hard to know what drove him and the other #students to end their lives, but the deaths have #school officials wondering if the #pandemic played a role. Now, there’s no nationwide data yet for #suicide deaths or attempts, but…

SUSAN DUFFY: Across the country, we’re hearing that there are increased numbers of serious suicidal attempts and suicidal deaths.

CHATTERJEE: Dr. Susan Duffy is a professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Brown University. She says in recent months, many of the seriously suicidal children and #teens are showing up at emergency departments. In her own hospital…

DUFFY: We are seeing an increased number with plans and thoughts.

CHATTERJEE: I spoke with providers in hospitals in seven states, and they all reported a similar trend. Dr. Vera Feuer directs pediatric emergency psychiatry at the Children’s Medical Center of Northwell Health in New York.

VERA FEUER: The kids that we are seeing now in the emergency department are really at the stage of maybe even having tried or attempted or have a detailed plan, looked up online how one hurts themselves.

CHATTERJEE: She says while there’s been a slight increase in 10- and 11-year-olds attempting, the majority of kids she sees are #teenagers. Feuer and her colleagues around the country are collecting data to get a better picture of this disturbing trend. In the meantime, their #patients are providing a window into how the #pandemic created a perfect storm, increasing their risk for #suicide. Feuer says #children who are most at risk are those with physical or #mentalhealthproblems. They’ve been cut off from crucial in-person services at #school and in their communities and are really struggling to cope.

FEUER: Because they have difficulties with their mood or learning or socialization or medical issues. And now you have other layers of difficulties on top of that. Those are the kids that we see in real hopeless moments.

CHATTERJEE: Like the 14-year-old she saw last fall who has a health problem that hasn’t been properly diagnosed because of #pandemic-related delays in his care. Then the #pandemic also took away his access to #sports.

FEUER: Which was his world and life and – you know, can’t do that. School’s not going very well because can’t focus. And then he looks at you and says, like, what’s the point? Like, what do I have to look forward to? Like, you tell me – what do I have to be hopeful about?

CHATTERJEE: One child #psychiatrist told me about a #teenage #girl with an #anxiety disorder, feeling overwhelmed with worries about a close family member who’s a #healthcareworker. Another #psychiatrist told me about a 9-year-old boy who wanted to die after his father passed away from #COVID-19. Many kids feeling suicidal right now are from families and communities hit hardest by the #pandemic.

Dr. Richard Martini is a #child and #adolescent #psychiatrist at the University of Utah.

RICHARD MARTINI: Families who have lost family members, #parents who have lost jobs, kids who have lost contact with people who are close to them, #children who have experienced some significant challenges at school – all of these experiences are fairly traumatic.

CHATTERJEE: And it’s harder to cope with all of this when #kids are cut off from their supports at #school – #mentalhealthservices, #socialworkers, #teachers, counselors, friends.

MARTINI: The vast majority of my #patients want to go back to #school, miss the social contacts, miss the life that they have. I mean, these kids really do have a separate life in #school that’s important to them, valuable to them.

CHATTERJEE: It’s among the reasons why the American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging #school districts to aim to bring students back into classrooms when it’s safe to do so.

MARTINI: There’s a level of #socialisolation for these #kids – particularly for #adolescents, but I think for all #children – that they have not experienced before.

CHATTERJEE: #Socialisolation is a major risk factor for #suicide, especially for young people already struggling with difficult life circumstances.

MARTINI: They may begin to feel like they’re in a situation that they can’t sort out. They may also be in a position where they feel they can’t talk to anybody, even their #parents, because their #parents are going to be quite upset. And as the number of solutions for that situation dwindle, they can begin to think about, you know, I’d rather be dead than sort through this.

CHATTERJEE: Especially with all the uncertainty about when the #pandemic will end. Dr. Nasuh Malas is a #psychiatrist and #pediatrician at the University of Michigan.

NASUH MALAS: I think it’s the coupling of those things – is pretty daunting for a lot of our #youth, who are still trying to figure out who they are, right? I mean, these are kids who are developing and growing.

CHATTERJEE: And still in need of guidance from #adults, especially to cope during difficult times. Colleen Neely, the #school counselor in Las Vegas, doesn’t know the exact circumstances that led her student to #suicide, but she wonders if someone could have prevented it if the #pandemic hadn’t upended everything.

NEELY: It’s very hard because part of me will always question, you know, if we had been in the building and if he had been able to just see another #adult, see his friends, possibly talk to me, if things would have been different.

CHATTERJEE: Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR News.

SHAPIRO: And if you’re concerned that your #child or someone you know is struggling to cope and thinking about #suicide, we have tips on how to spot the warning signs and how to help prevent #suicide at npr.org. You can also text or call the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

man in white crew neck t shirt sitting with his kids
Photo by KoolShooters on Pexels.com

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